How to Talk With Your Teen About Alcohol

by Polaris Teen Center | Apr 21, 2017 | Mental Health, Parenting Tips, Resources, Substance Abuse

alcohol talk with teen

Bringing up the subject of drinking can be uncomfortable. That is why it is important to know what to avoid when opening up a discussion with your teen.

When your child becomes a teenager, the role of being a parent can take a dynamic turn. Rather than helping them get through all the small events in the day, it is now prudent to be there in helping them through the more pivotal moments in their life. This can range across much of what adulthood entails, but alcohol is a topic that needs to be talked about. Creating an honest and open discussion can make you a dependable resource for your teen as they encounter situations with alcohol in high school and college. It is quite important to open up the discussion before they are in a position where they must figure things out for themselves.


A teen’s thoughts towards alcohol can change daily. While your child may be on the same page with you at one point, getting caught in the moment with their friends later can be another story. It is important to give them the best information so that when they are faced with a tough decision they can make safe choices with confidence. Peer pressure is a strong influence on an adolescent’s decision making. At times it can be difficult to remember that the majority of teens do not actually drink or participate in drug use.


Approaching the subject of drinking in a negative and condescending tone can very easily set your teen in a bad direction. What makes the situation so delicate is that there is always the possibility of taking too strong of an approach and causing your child to act out in defiance. Conveying a strict and unrealistic viewpoint will lead your teen to go out into the world with a sense of personal uncertainty. This can also cause them to believe you aren’t giving them the trust and responsibility they want to have as they are getting older. Without an open conversation your teen will not feel comfortable reaching out when they do eventually feel curious about alcohol. One tactic that can help build trust is to hold a standing offer to always pick them up anytime with no questions asked. You would never want your child to get into a vehicle with someone who is driving intoxicated. Offering yourself as a safety net in case they are in the middle of a bad situation will give them the assurance to be more honest about what they might be doing.


The most important step is to get the conversation started. This will allow them to feel comfortable enough to talk to you when they are ready. Confrontation is not wise if your goal is to get their honest opinion, and failing to approach the topic will put them in a position of having to figure things out for themselves. Instead of asking whether or not they are drinking, perhaps ask what their friends think about drinking or how they personally feel about others drinking. Creating an indirect line of reference will allow them to feel the freedom to express their true thoughts instead of what they think you want to hear as a parent. Do not be afraid to talk about your own feelings towards drinking as an adult. You may have a few experiences that have influenced your views and that can be good to for your teen to hear. It is key for your teen to realize that you no longer view them as a child, but as a young adult with their own decisions to make.


Their thoughts can change constantly, so it is important to leave the discussion open for any point in time. It can be helpful to bring up the subject of alcohol every once in a while in a casual setting, like in the car or while watching TV. You never know when something might change within their social life, so keeping the discussion going can help you to stay in the loop.


  • DO
    • Remind them in a casual tone that you are always willing to listen with an open mind.
    • Open up about your own experiences and be honest about negative experiences that have influenced your views
    • Try to understand their opinion, and build trust so that you can always be a friendly resource
    • Help them realize that most teens don’t feel a need to drink, and that there is no obligation despite what peer pressure might suggest
  • DON’T
    • Corner or interrogate your teen
    • Imply that they should know better- they will learn through open communication.
    • Make them feel like you don’t want to listen to what they have to say


If your loved one is struggling with alcohol dependency, Polaris can help. We are a premier teen treatment center focused on healing the individual and providing them with the right tools to live happy, successful lives. No two people are exactly alike, and we recognize this from the beginning. Our programs are tailored to the individual, allowing our experienced team of therapists to focus on fixing the underlying mental helath issues contributing to their alcoholism. For more information on our program, or to get in touch with our intake and admissions team, call us at (844) 836-0222.

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Polaris Teen Center is a residential treatment facility for teens and adolescents suffering from severe mental health disorders. Our highly accredited facility is fully licensed and certified in Trauma Informed Care and is a part of the Behavioral Health Association of Providers (formerly AATA).