What to Do if You Catch Your Child Drinking Drinking | Using Drugs

“It’s not mine. It’s Sally’s – she just asked me to hold it for her.”

“It was my first and only time.”

These are but two of the plausible excuses parents have shared with me as having been told to them after they’d caught their child drinking or using drugs. I know my daughter gave me a similar explanation after she was caught and suspended for drinking at the high school dance.

Parents also share with me how things spiraled out of control as their child made up one excuse and/or promise after another, and they (the parents) believed (or tried to believe) them. This is normal. We want to believe our children. It’s what parents do. But when it comes to drugs and alcohol, it’s important you understand some of the new research so that if the need ever does arise, you’ll know…

What to Do if You Catch Your Child Drinking or Using Drugs

1. Stay Calm – Breathe – DON’T REACT

Some suggestions to help with talking to your child if you catch them drinking or using drugs.

Some suggestions to help with talking to your child if you catch them drinking or using drugs. These suggestions can also help parents of younger children better prepare for the teen years.

The best thing you can do is nothing, other than to tell them you need to think about what they have said, welcome any further explanations they would like to share and that you will get back to them when you are ready to talk about it. This buys you much needed time to do what is suggested in #2. You will be so much more effective if you are confident in your reasons so that you can talk in a calm, reasoned manner when you’re ready. And likely you’ve not heard of the new brain science that is really changing how parents understand and can talk to their teens about underage drinking or drug use, which is what is shared, next.

2. Get the Facts

Know that it is normal for teens (especially in their early teens) to take risks and turn to their peers (such as drinking or using drugs because that’s what their friends are doing). Risk taking and turning to their peers is what their brains are “designed” to do. To understand this concept, please read “What Were You Thinking? – Understanding the Teen Brain.” These two additional resources can also help, “The Partnership at DrugFree.org, A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain,” and “Want to Get Through to Teens | Talk to Their Brains.”

You will also want to understand why alcohol and drugs interact differently with the adolescent brain than they do with the adult brain, as well as the contributing risk factors that can cause one teen to cross the line from substance abuse to addiction. Additionally, check out “Five Things to Know About Adolescents’ Brain Development and Use” and “Adolescent Addiction: Reducing the Risks of Adolescent Substance Abuse.” While you are on The Addiction Project’s website (the source of the last two links), you may wish to continue browsing some of the other information they provide.

And just so you know, the Europeans have significant problems with underage drinking. In other words, lowering the drinking age is not the answer. Check out this blog post, “Would Lowering the Drinking Age Solve the Underage Drinking Problem.”

3.  Don’t Believe Them

This may be the toughest one of all. But don’t. It’s not that they’re bad or evil. Rather, as  Michele Ranard, MEd explains in her, “Why Teens Lie,” “…the most common reason for the teens’ deception was actually: ‘I’m trying to protect the relationship with my parents; I don’t want them to be disappointed in me.’” Ms. Ranard goes on to share in her article suggestions for what parents can do to “create a climate so their teens lie about less.”

4.  Don’t Let it Pass

By this I mean not to take it at face value or believe once the initial conversation occurs all will be fine. It’s important to have ongoing conversations and to be solid in what you want to say in the first conversation that follows the initiating event. The Mayo Clinic offers some great information and tips on how to talk with your child in their article, “Teen Drug Abuse: Help Your Teen Avoid Drugs.” The Partnership at DrugFree.org offers some great tips, as well, starting with “Help Teens While Their Brain Develops.”

5.  Provide Them With Information

Share with your teen the information you’ve learned in numbers 2 – 4. Teens especially appreciate the brain science behind why they do some of the things they do, why the adolescent brain is not the brain of an adult, and how it is that alcohol or drugs interrupts the brain’s natural communication system. This short video may help you prepare for this effort, It’s Time We Tell the Whole Truth About Puberty, as well as this longer one, “The Teen Brain and Addiction.” The same is true of this article, “A Different Kind of Conversation About Underage Drinking.”

Even if you believe your child has never entertained the idea of drinking or using drugs, sharing some of this new research may help them to stay strong in their decision.

Lisa Frederiksen

Lisa Frederiksen

Author Speaker Consultant Owner at BreakingTheCycles.com
Author of nine books and hundreds of articles, Lisa Frederiksen is a national keynote speaker, consultant and founder of BreakingTheCycles.com. She has spent more then a decade researching, writing, speaking and consulting on substance abuse prevention, mental illness, addiction as a brain disease, dual diagnosis, secondhand drinking | drugging, help for the family and related subjects – all centered around 21st century brain and addiction-related research. Her clients (some as far as Kenya, Slovenia and Mexico), include: individuals, families, military troops and personnel, U.S. Forest Service districts and regions, medical school students, businesses, social workers, parent and student groups, family law attorneys, treatment providers and the like. Visit www.BreakingTheCycles.com for details. Please feel free to call Lisa at 650-362-3026 or email her at lisaf@breakingthecycles.com.

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