Has Teenage Drinking Become More Of A Problem?
Teenage drinking has become a real concern for modern parents. We know from experience that children experiment with alcohol due to curiosity and peer pressure.
But, did you know that bored teenagers are more likely to drink than those that are busy? Yes, studies have found that ‘boredom’ is a prime factor in driving teenagers to drink.
While teenage drinking has historically been a concern, the current scenario has highlighted the issue. With Covid-19 continuing to impact the way we live, social interactions are at an all-time low. The risk of boredom among teens is extremely high and there are real mental health issues.
In these unknown and somewhat scary times, we need to be alert to and aware of these needs.
What can we, as parents and the broader community, do to reduce this blossoming problem of teenage drinking?
Bored Teenagers and Teenage Drinking
A study of British teenagers published in 2009 is telling on the topic of teenage drinking. It found that 8% of 16-17 year olds drank alcohol at least once a week because they were bored.
29% of those surveyed stated boredom as a reason for experimenting with alcohol at least once in their lives.
Boredom has a negative effect on any person’s life. It causes you to feel depressed, lonely and isolated. Teenagers who constantly complain of ‘being bored’ do not have a sense of autonomy or control over their lives.
Bored teenagers feel frustrated and dissatisfied with life. To regain control and lift their mood, they often turn to alcohol.
Impact of Covid-19 On The Mental Health of Teenagers
Covid-19 has drastically disrupted all our lives, but particularly those of young adults. We have seen a massive change in daily routines and the sudden transition from physical classes to online learning.
This comes with limited social interactions that have negatively affected the mental health of teenagers.
An increasing number of teens are reporting being depressed, lonely and isolated during these times. There have also been increases in sleep disturbances, extended screen use and high stress levels.
Teens struggling with these stressors are more likely to experiment with alcohol and substance abuse. In short, bored teenagers are turning to drugs and alcohol and there has been an increase in levels of teenage drinking.
Although quite alarming, this information can be a great help to us. By being aware of and understanding this turmoil of our teenagers, we’re in a better position to help them.
Effects Of Drinking In Teenagers
There is a good reason why we restrict teenage drinking. Alcohol slows function of the central nervous system, impairing our child’s vision, hearing, movement, emotion and perceptions.
- Distortions in coordination.
- Slurred speech.
- Confusion and disorientation.
- Loss of inhibition, causing changes in behavior.
- Increased aggression.
- Slow reaction time.
Do not to forget the lethal combination of teenage drinking and driving which has caused much carnage over the years
Find Ways To Tackle Teenage Drinking
Considering the dangers of teenage drinking, we need to take action to keep our children safe. Knowing that bored teenagers are more likely to experiment, it is vital we understand this and find ways to assist them.
Here are some ways to help your teen understand the dangers of, and refrain from, excessive teenage drinking.
Communicate The Facts
The most important thing to do is talk to your teenager about drinking and the potential dangers of over-indulging.
However, you must remember to:
- Stay calm and relaxed.
- Set the right tone. Open friendly conversations are more effective than judgemental lectures.
- Listen! It will encourage your child to open up and pay attention to what you say.
Another tip is to conduct these discussions at the right time. For example, starting a conversation as your teen is leaving with their friends is a sure fire way to get into an argument.
Instead, wait for the right time and opening and take it from there. Bringing up the topic of teenage drinking with your child should not be an embarrassing topic for either of you.
Talk to your child about the negatives of alcohol use. But more importantly, use these discussions to find out if anything is troubling your child.
Remember, alcohol is often covering the fact that you have a bored teenager in your house.
State Your Expectations Around Teenage Drinking
We need to clearly state our expectations for all behavior in children and especially teenagers. They must be fully aware of the consequences if found using alcohol. Although they tend to push boundaries, teenagers need to be responsible for following the rules given to them.
Instead of an outright declaration of law, involve them in a discussion about teenage drinking. Brainstorm and research together to find a consensus on when it may be appropriate for them to maybe drink.
Let them know that alcohol is not always a monster but how much and when they drink needs to be controlled. Show them the research on young adults and the dangers of binge drinking.
Set it in paper, in a contract form, and add your signatures to it. This holds your teen accountable for the decisions they make.
Set An Example When Drinking
It is very important to set good examples for your children, they’re watching and learning from you! This doesn’t mean never touching alcohol, but it does mean appropriate consumption levels.
Control your drinking in front of your teens and remember to stick to your limits. If you want responsible teenage drinking behavior from your child, you need to show it yourself.
It’s also important not to be hypocritical in front of your child. For example, it is not right to drink and drive after telling your child not to do the same. Be honest and admit to making mistakes to help your children learn from them.
Encourage A Bored Teenager To Be Active
Encourage your teen to be more active. Motivate them to take up a hobby or participate in a sport or activity interesting to them.
They may even wish to volunteer or take up a small job. By engaging in such activities, teens can keep themselves occupied and have less time for feeling bored.
Children find purpose and meaning when engaging in important tasks. They can interact with others and develop their physical, mental and team building skills. It helps them find joy and confidence in themselves and these reduce problematic teenage drinking.
Engaging in meaningful activities can help children become resilient. Moreover, with no bored teenager in the house and higher confidence they will more likely steer clear of alcohol.
Reduce Screen Time And Connect With Your Teenager
With learning shifting online, our teens tend to be glued to their screens right now. And it’s time that we dialed down their screen use.
After learning sessions, encourage children to get away from their devices. Find some activities that you can do together. Go for a walk to the local cafe, play a little ball or get out in the garden.
Use this time to talk and connect with your child to find out how they are coping. Indeed, it might be difficult to balance this along with your work, the house and other routines.
But, keeping aside this time for your child will be well worth it in the long run. Who knows, it may be the key that prevents them from turning to alcohol for their solace.
Remember that it is more likely that a bored teenager will involve themselves in bad teenage drinking behaviors.
In these uncertain times, it’s crucial that we be more vigilant around levels of teenage drinking. Help your bored teenager find purpose and meaning in their lives with relevant activities.
By making teens resilient and instilling them with positive coping behaviors, we can combat teenage drinking.
However, despite all these steps, your teen might still undertake inappropriate alcohol consumption. If this occurs, forgive them! After all, everyone makes mistakes. Probably even you when you were a teenager?
Let them know that you are there to support and help them with any problem they have. And if you are concerned about your family and teenage drinking, there is lots of help around.
An Occupational therapist, freelance content writer and more importantly a stay-at-home mom, Sarah, like all other parents juggles her many roles. Her passion for writing combined with her professional expertise as an Occupational therapist (working with children with special needs) has helped her craft content specific to child health, wellness and learning skills. At present, Sarah alternates her time between raising her two young children, and writing about what she knows best- children!