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We Can Knock Out Teen Vaping For Good. Here’s How.

As adults, helping our teens make good choices can sometimes feel like stepping into the boxing ring, facing off against the challenges that threaten their well-being. One challenge that has become more prominent in recent years is teen vaping. But just like a boxer, you can learn skills to help “knock out” teen vaping in just a few rounds.

Round 1: Knowledge is Power

In this round, you’ll rely on your knowledge of the risks of vaping during adolescence, including: 

We also need to be aware of the new nicotine products that are being marketed to teens so we can keep an eye out for their ever-changing new forms. Having an understanding of why teens vape also shows us where there are opportunities to help and support our teens. Some of these reasons include influence from peers, a misunderstanding of the harmful contents of the aerosol produced by vaping, and coping with stress or anxiety. Equipped with this knowledge, you’ll be better able to help your teen understand the risks of vaping and guide them toward safe choices.

Round 2: Open & Honest Communication

Just like a boxer, teens need people in their corner who can provide strong support and guidance, and this starts with open and honest communication. Approach your teen with empathy and a willingness to listen, and know that you won’t always get everything across in one talk. Use these conversation goals to help guide you in your talks with your teen:

  • Make it clear that you don’t approve of them using any vaping products. Over 80% of 10-18 year olds say their parents are their biggest influence on their decision not to use substances.
  • Show teens you care about their health, safety, and success. Reinforce the reasons you expect your teen to stay vape-free – because you love them and want them to be happy, healthy, and safe. Explain to them that vaping is harmful to their developing brains and can lead to lifelong addiction.
  • Be curious and open-minded about their experiences. Ask them what they think, know, or have heard about vaping. Show them that you are a good source of information if they have questions. 
  • Keep the conversation going. Talk often with your teen about vaping. Take advantage of opportunities when watching movies, TV, and commercials together that feature vaping. Let them know that they can come to you for help with stress, anxiety, or peer pressure. 

Round 3: Strategize for Success

In boxing, strategizing for success means practicing and planning for what might happen in the ring. You can help your teen do the same by practicing and planning for the situations they might encounter in their day-to-day lives. Consider planning for things like:

  • Peer pressure. Practicing how to say “no” can help teens feel more confident and comfortable resisting if a friend or peer offers them a vape.

  • Daily stressors. Stress is a normal part of life, but teens need help learning how to manage it. Discuss what stressors might exist for your teen and brainstorm coping skills that can help them handle stress, such as spending time outside, getting adequate sleep, or positive self-talk. Be open to their suggestions and help them think through some ideas that will work for them.

Follow up often to see how these strategies for success are working, and help them adapt their plans as needed. Celebrate when you notice them putting these strategies into action! 

Round 4: Seek Professional Help

Boxers call on professionals to help them when needed, and you can too. If you’re worried your teen might be vaping, the Partnership to End Addiction can help. There are also teen cessation resources available from The Truth Initiative’s This is Quitting program. Teens can text “BREAKFREE” to 88709 for free, confidential tips and quitting advice delivered straight to their phone to help them quit vaping. If your child is vaping to cope with anxiety or depression, reach out to their primary care doctor or a mental health professional. 

By adopting a boxing mentality, we can get one step closer to knocking out teen vaping for good! For more resources and tips for keeping kids safe from teen vaping, visit our Vaping page here at!

Underage Drinking: It’s on Us to Protect Kids

by Parent Up Staff

As adults we have the opportunity, and the obligation, to do everything we can to make sure our young people have healthy and bright futures. Adults working together can support policies, attitudes, and actions that prevent underage drinking and help youth thrive. Read on to see how you can help: 

Why should we care about preventing underage drinking?

The teen years are a sensitive time for brain development and underage drinking only adds fuel to the fire. The years between childhood and adulthood aren’t the easiest and youth need help from adults along the way. Underage drinking and teen drug use can negatively affect young people’s school performance, future job prospects, and physical and mental health, damaging their lives well into adulthood. 90% of adults with substance use disorders started using alcohol or other drugs in their teen years, so it’s important to take early and ongoing action.

What impacts a teen’s likelihood to drink alcohol?

While kids are the ones who take the drink, there are a lot of factors outside the teen that lead to this decision. When alcohol is more available, youth are more likely to drink. Also, when teens think it is “ok” or “cool,” or the adults around them allow minors to drink, they are more likely to drink alcohol. Finally, when teens think they are safe from any harm, like legal trouble, we see rates of teen drinking increase. Each of these factors can be addressed at a community level and Parent Up asks for all adults to help protect our youth.

What steps can adults take to help reduce underage drinking in our community?

Adults can help reduce the number of teens drinking by:

  1. Refusing to provide alcohol to minors—even during special occasions. When adults refuse, fewer kids use.  
  2. Letting the youth in your life know you care about their mental well-being.  If they’re feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or bored, adults can help find healthy solutions for relief rather than them turning to alcohol or other drugs. 
  3. Setting clear, no alcohol use expectations with the kids in your life. When adults set boundaries and stand firm, kids feel safe and know what to do when peer pressure mounts.
  4. Making a game plan with the teens in your life before they go out or spend time with friends, so they know what is expected and how to refuse if alcohol is offered.  

At Parent Up, our hope is to help equip parents and other caring adults with tools and resources to help prevent substance use of any kind by youth. Thank you for caring and thanks for taking action to help! For more tips, tools, and resources on youth alcohol use or preventing any drug use with our teens, feel free to explore around

An Open Letter to My Son about Drinking

When my now 22-year-old son, who will be a senior in college next year, was entering 10th grade, I started getting a lot of questions from family and friends. They wondered how I was going to handle his inevitable experimentation with alcohol. When I expressed the idea that Tom might decide not to drink until he was 21, I was accused of living under a rock. It was just assumed that my son would drink, no matter what I thought or said. When the subject came up with other parents, a frequent response I got was, “I don’t want my kid to drink, but of course they will.” Or, “Kids will be kids,” And my personal favorite, “Well we did it when we were their age.”


Really? Is this the criteria we are going to base our parenting on? I’ve always felt it’s my job as a parent to set the boundary and my kid’s job to test it. Because I’m a writer and blogger, I decided to write my feelings about this in a letter to my son. 


I wanted Tom to know where my husband and I stood on engaging in behaviors that are at best risky and at worst illegal or life-threatening. I joked that at least he could never say he didn’t know how I felt. I expected some people to disagree with me. I knew members in my own family, including my dad, did. But I never expected the letter would go viral, being shared hundreds of thousands of times. And that even seven years later, I would still on occasion be contacted about it.


A few weeks ago Tom and I were discussing the fact that he did choose not to drink until he turned 21. I never thought my letter was a real factor in his choice. I thought it had more to do with having friends that just weren’t into drinking.  

In fact even though they are now over 21 and can legally drink, alcohol just isn’t a big part of their lives. 


So I was surprised when he said that the letter did play a part in his choice. Well not the letter as much as what it represented. Tom knew exactly how we felt. We had many honest discussions about the dangers of drinking, especially the dangers of binge drinking. But the letter was a tangible reminder.


I want to be very clear, I don’t think I’m a good parent because my kid didn’t drink before he was 21. And I don’t think someone is a bad parent if their kid does choose to drink before the legal age. I do think our kids deserve a clear answer on how we feel about underage drinking. And if it’s a behavior we don’t want them to engage in, I think we should tell them. 



Dear Tom,


The legal drinking age in this country is 21. Please know that dad and I will never allow you to have alcohol in our house or in our presence until you reach that age. Please also know that no good has ever come from a group of teenagers drinking. It’s a recipe for all kinds of disasters. If you should choose to drink, you’ll not only be breaking the rules of our house, you’ll be breaking the law. If you get stopped for driving under the influence, or the police get called to a party where you have been drinking, you may be in a position where we can’t protect you.


Always call me and your dad. ALWAYS. No matter what you have done. Don’t ever follow up a bad choice with one that’s worse just because you’re afraid of disappointing us or making us angry. Will we be happy? Of course not. But we would much rather get you and any friend who wants to come with you home safely, than get a call saying you are NEVER coming home.


Let me be clear that the fact that we love you and will stand by you does not in any way mean we will stand by while you do things that you know aren’t good for you. There are those who will tell you that your parents are being unreasonable and totally unrealistic. Some may tell you that you are a teenager and it’s a rite of passage to get drunk. They may even regale you with stories of their own youthful mistakes.


Listen to your own heart and trust your gut. Also know there is nothing cool about waking up in your own vomit, or having a DUI before you are 18. Your father and I are so proud of the man you are becoming. We love you so much that we don’t care if you hate us. That’s our gift to you — we are your parents, not your friends.




Kathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, mom to three, wife to one, and the one time owner of a possessed appliance. She is the creator of the blog, My Dishwasher’s Possessed! Kathy’s work has been featured in HuffPost, Scary Mommy, Yahoo, Her View From Home, TODAY Parents, Romper, and many other online publications. Her new project is sharing her experience as a parent to a daughter with special needs on The Special Needs Nest by Kathy Radigan.

Drawing Boundaries for Safe, Healthy Kids

Diane Pickert is a Community Prevention Specialist at Tri-County Mental Health Services in Kansas City, MO.  Her background education is in Early Childhood Development, Communication, and Religious Education.  She’s finishing her Masters at the moment from Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England.  Diane’s focus has always been on the connection between faith, family and raising healthy children.

My 3 year-old grandson Ambrose drew a mural with markers, not once, but twice on walls in their family home.  First, all over the dining room wall and a year later, all over the upstairs hallway.  Needless to say, my daughter and her husband have had to set some boundaries with markers.  

It is normal in development for children in their early years to push their limits, which is why it is important to start setting boundaries young.  By setting these boundaries and establishing consequences, it helps children develop self-control, supports development, and fosters a moral compass.

Here are some reasons kids and teens need boundaries:

  • Boundaries teach self-discipline
  • Boundaries keep our children safe and healthy
  • Boundaries teach children how to socialize
  • Boundaries teach children how to cope with uncomfortable feelings
  • Boundaries encourage good behavior and good citizenship as they grow older
  • Boundaries are reassuring and actually show children you care about them

In adolescence, kids start testing limits with relationships and their bodies.  The emotional center of the adolescent brain is hyper-sensitive to risk and reward and it often overrides the underdeveloped front of the brain (the prefrontal cortex) where complex thought and decision making happens.  Adolescents are more likely to try things like drinking alcohol, vaping, or driving at dangerous speeds, leaving parents reminiscing of the days of coloring on the walls!

Setting boundaries helps the adolescent brain create pathways as your child grows up.  It shows kids you care about their health and development and makes them feel safe.  Setting firm boundaries and having regular conversations with your children will help them become responsible for their own actions, attitudes and emotions. Maintaining these boundaries will instill character in your children which will encourage them to lead a balanced, and resilient life well into their adult years.  And if your child is anything like my grandson, they will probably “color on the walls” more than once.  That’s ok and it doesn’t mean that your boundaries aren’t worth it.  Boundaries need to be defined more than once for adolescents. 

I’m sure as Ambrose continues to grow older he will need more boundaries set for different reasons.  His parents will have many conversations with him, not because they want to stifle his curiosity or creativity, but because they simply love him and want him to be safe. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your kids and teens.  It enhances their ability to cope with life’s disappointments (without drugs like nicotine and marijuana) and helps them gain a sense of control.  Make sure you have regular conversations with your children and, most importantly, love them even in the midst of their mistakes.

The Results are In! New 2020 Data and Looking to the Future

Local Data on Substance Use Declines

The Missouri Student Survey is conducted on even-numbered years and tracks risky behaviors of students in grades 6-12 attending public and private schools in Missouri. The survey, conducted jointly by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Mental Health, asks youth a variety of questions on health and safety issues. County summaries of the 2020 results are available to view here

From the summary view, the new data is uplifting. Youth across Clay, Platte and Ray Counties are using alcohol, tobacco, e-cigarettes, and marijuana at rates lower than the state average.  The past 30-day use rates of these substances is also lower than what was reported in 2018.  At Parent Up, we are excited to see this downward trend!  We can celebrate that our youth are using fewer substances and that our prevention programs are working to make a difference.

Substance Use Harms Young Brains and Can Lead to Addiction

On the other hand, we still have plenty of work to do to protect area youth.  A study from the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse found that 9 out of 10 people who are addicted to nicotine, alcohol or other drugs began using these substances in their teen years.  This statistic is backed by science and research that reveals the vulnerability of the adolescent brain to substance use.  Because the human brain is not fully developed until the mid-20s, vaping, drinking alcohol, using marijuana or misusing medications during the teen years can disrupt and damage brain development.  Substance use prior to age 18 is linked to an increased likelihood of brain damage, addiction, and mental illness such as depression or suicidal ideation.

Preventing the Disease of Addiction

Prevention science points to multiple strategies that prevent the early use of alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs.  Policies that reduce availability and marketing of substances to youth are important in reducing access to youth.  Strong community and family attitudes and expectations that discourage underage use are also proven to decrease the chances that a child will begin using alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or prescription drugs in the teen years.  Establishing strong relationships and connection between teens and adults, providing opportunities for healthy risk, and monitoring and supervision are also proven to decrease the likelihood that a child will engage in risky behaviors like substance use.  These strategies,especially when coupled together, will help ensure that youth substance use rates continue to decline.  Follow along this year at Parent Up as we work to ensure that parents and our community CARE, CONNECT, COMMUNICATE and pay CAREFUL attention to our kids so that we can delay the age of first use of alcohol and other drugs, and protect future generations from the devastation that comes from addiction!

What are We Teaching Our Kids?: How to be a positive role model when it comes to alcohol

“Role Modeling is one of the most powerful tools you have in your parenting tool belt to influence the direction of your children’s character, whatever their age.”

–The Center for Parenting Education

My nine year old is my little shadow.  She wants to be wherever I am, sit next to me at every meal, and raid my closet for her latest fashion creation.  As frustrating as it can be at times, I am happy to have my little shadow!  See, I also have a 13 year old who was socially distancing before it was cool.  The truth is that both my little shadow and my distant teen, like all kids, learn and mimic their surroundings.  

Well into adulthood, our kiddos closely observe us as we manage our relationships, work, our health, and more. They note how we handle stress and whether we treat others with respect, show patience, act generously, and overall practice what we preach. And they tuck all of this away to use as they navigate their own lives.

Our use of alcohol is no different. As parents, role modeling when it comes to alcohol consumption is key to protecting our children from the risks associated with underage drinking.

Some well-meaning parents believe that letting their children drink at home helps them develop an appropriate relationship with alcohol. Research suggests otherwise— in fact, adolescents who are allowed to drink at home drink more heavily outside of the home. In addition, adolescents whose parents have specific and strict rules against underage drinking (and also drink responsibly themselves) are less likely to drink heavily outside the home.

So whether you have a shadow, or you always live life 6 feet apart, how can you model responsible drinking as a parent? Here are some guidelines:

  • Explain to your child why alcohol is for adults only. Let them know their brain will continue to develop well into their twenties, so the legal age of 21 helps protect their health.  Communicate your strong stance against drinking before this age, and talk about your consequences for your child.
  • Be a role model. If you drink alcohol, be mindful of how much and why you drink and what messages you might be sending to your children. Do not involve your children in adult behaviors.  Restrict them from touching, sipping, mixing, or fetching alcohol for adults.  It’s always a good idea to have a sober caregiver or parent present.
  • Control the context.  As adults, we shouldn’t talk about drinking as a way to manage stress around kids — for example, “Today was terrible. I need a drink!”  Instead, we should model healthier ways to manage stress like exercising, practicing deep breathing, or talking things over with your partner.  We can put words to these actions and make the connection clear for our kids!  For example, “Whew, I had such a stressful day!  I’m going to go take a walk to calm down and unwind.”
  • What if you drank as a teen?  If you choose to share that you drank as a teen, be sure to admit that it was a mistake and give examples of negative experiences that resulted or could have resulted from it. If your child asks you this question, a great response is “I did have a drink when I was younger. However, we didn’t know as much as we do now about the risks of alcohol. If I had known then, I would have done things differently. This is why I am talking to you about it. I want you to be safe, healthy, and happy.”
  • Practice what you preach:  Never drive when you’ve been drinking or get into a vehicle with a driver who is impaired. You wouldn’t want your child to, so don’t do it yourself.  Designate a sober driver in advance if you plan to drink.
  • If you have alcohol in your home, be sure to secure it away from kids and teens. 

To learn more about alcohol and your health, visit the CDC’s FAQ page for alcohol. For more tips and tools for preventing underage drinking or talking to your child about alcohol and other drug use, check out our Parent Up Tools page! 

Tiffany (Van Sickle) is a parent of two amazing kiddos, and has been working to prevent youth substance use for 5 years.  She currently serves as the Program Director for the Park Hill Community Alliance for Youth (CAFY).

6 Warning Signs Your Child Has Been Vaping

Vaping –or the use of e-cigarettes– is a dangerous trend that has been rising in popularity among youth. In fact, a 2019 report by the Center for Disease Control shows that the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes rose from 3.6 million in 2018 to a whopping 5.3 million in 2019.

6 Warning Signs To Look Out For

As a parent, here are a few warning signs that might indicate that your child has been vaping:

 1) Unfamiliar tech-looking devices

E-cigarette devices contain parts and cartridges that need to be exchanged and replaced. These parts may appear to look like USB drives or battery chargers.

2) Pleasant smell

What can make vaping more appealing to youth than traditional cigarettes are the sweet flavors available. If you catch faint aromas of bubble gum or watermelon, it might be a sign that someone is vaping nearby.

3) Increased secrecy and mood behaviors

Mood changes and feelings of irritability and anxiety may be signs of nicotine withdrawal. If you notice your child acting more irritable than usual, as well as being secretive and unwilling to answer questions, it may be another sign that your child has been vaping.

4) Increased thirst or nose bleeds

Vaping removes hydration from the skin of the mouth and throat, leaving a dry, flat palate. If you see your child increasing their liquid consumption (and urinating more), this may be a sign of vaping. Similarly to how it dries the mouth, vaping also dries the skin of the nose too. When the nose is too dry, it can bleed, which might be another clue.

5) Decreased caffeine use

The combination of vaping nicotine and drinking caffeine can cause anxiety and severe mood swings. Many vape users will decrease their caffeine intake to avoid these side effects.

6) Unfamiliar online purchases or packages

Vapes and e-juices are available for purchase online, so if there are unfamiliar charges on a card or odd-looking packages coming to your home, it’s time to ask questions.

Talking Points 

It’s important to note that while these may be indicators of vaping, they aren’t sure-fire indicators that your child has been using an e-cigarette. That’s why it’s important not to jump to conclusions, but rather to approach a conversation with your child with an open mind.

Here are some quick tips for discussing vaping with your child:

  • Start the conversation sooner than later– The discussion on vaping with your child will likely be ongoing so start the dialogue early on
  • Avoid criticism and encourage your child to be open with you– Listen to your child to understand their perspective things and invite them to ask questions 
  • Help them understand why vaping is harmful– Use facts to stress the seriousness of vaping
  • Teach them to say no– Identify possible scenarios where your child may be offered e-cigarettes, then help them practice how to respond

At Parent Up, it’s our mission to equip parents with online tools and resources to help prevent substance abuse of any kind by youth.

The talking tips listed above can also be applied to other conversations with your child to prevent underage use of other harmful substances such as alcohol, marijuana or other drugs.

For more stats, information, and advice on vaping, visit our Vaping page.

The Power of Grandparents in Preventing Underage Drinking

Children often hold a special place in their hearts and minds for grandparents. Oftentimes, they feel like they’re able to have open conversations with their grandparents without judgment, criticism or punishment they may receive from parents. 

It’s for that reason that grandparents may be able to make headway in tough conversations where parents might otherwise be unable to. They can help surround a teenager with support, love, and reinforcement towards a life without the damage of illegal substances. 

Here are a few tips for grandparents:

Get Involved In Their Life

  • Connect with grandkids in their world by attending their events, spending quality time together, or sharing the kids’ interest. The goal is to build a strong bond and good memories.
  • Expand interest in their life by joining their social media circle as invited. Grandparents can have a Snapchat account too!

Listen, Don’t Judge

  • Show interest in the child’s life by listening, asking good questions, and offering love and encouragement.
  • Grandkids might share stories involving questionable behavior, about a friend who got ‘wasted’ or someone who was ‘grounded for a month’. In such cases, it’s important to listen without expressing judgment. 

Share Your Wisdom

  • Once a good relationship is secured, grandparents can share opinions of disapproval of illegal substance use without using a condescending tone.
  • If something is shared that needs to be reported back to the parents, grandparents can suggest ways of sharing the news and offer encouragement and support in the process.

While they may not be on the front lines of parenting, grandparents can be strong allies in helping kids avoid underage drinking or other drug use. Parent Up encourages grandparents to leverage the influential role they play in their relationships with their grandkids to empower them to make smart choices. 

To learn more about how to prevent underage drinking and the use of other substances, visit our collection of online tools and resources.

Start Young: 5 Ways to Talk To Your Elementary Aged Child About Alcohol

For parents of elementary aged children, the need to talk about avoiding alcohol and other drug use can feel like a long ways off. While it’s true that the pressure to drink with their friends, start using drugs, or hide substance-use behavior from parents may not be a daily struggle for 8-12 year olds, they are still exposed to drugs and alcohol and may form their opinions early.

Here are 5 ways to talk to your elementary-aged child about alcohol:

1- Explain how alcohol is bad for kids’ brains

 Tell kids their brains are growing every day in many different ways. When their brain takes in information from hearing words, reading books, or seeing neat things with their eyes, their brain processes it all, stores the good stuff, and grows bigger and bigger. Then explain that alcohol and other drugs slow that process down and stops their brain from growing bigger and smarter.

2- Use an analogy

 Use an analogy to further drive your message. Have them imagine they are building with Legos and someone pours sticky syrup all over their Lego creation. They would not be able to build as well as before. Alcohol is like sticky syrup that wrecks what young brains are starting to build.

3- Be wary of your behaviour

 Elementary-aged children watch and model themselves after their parents, so it’s important to be mindful of your behaviour when consuming alcohol. While we’re not suggesting that you hide drinks from your children or that you need to give up drinking altogether, we invite you to control the context in which your child is exposed to alcohol and other drugs.

Here are some quick tips on managing your child’s exposure to adult alcohol consumption:

  1. Do not involve your children in adult behaviors and restrict them from touching, sipping, fetching, or mixing alcohol.
  2. Make sure there are other non-alcoholic drinks offered to adults at mixed age parties or gatherings. Consider hosting or attending events where alcohol isn’t present.
  3. Be careful about how you talk about drinking around your kids. Avoid comments like  “Whew, I had a hard day at work. I really need a beer tonight.”

4- Maintain open communication

Explain why adults may drink alcohol but children may not; because even in small amounts, it is harmful to the development of their brains and bodies. Talk to your child about the dangers and side effects of alcohol. Explain that alcohol is different than food and other drinks. Let your child know that people who drink too much alcohol get sick and throw up. Explain that too much alcohol can make some people stressed, angry and violent. 

5- Address alcohol in advertising and media

Alcohol-related advertising can be found everywhere, especially in television, and it’s been proven to share a correlation with underage drinking among youth. When alcohol or other drugs is brought up on TV or you see a display out in the community, ask your child what they know and feel about alcohol and answer any questions they may have.

Starting the conversation with your child early will empower them to make smart and healthy decisions as they get older. Keeping an open dialogue will help you develop a closer relationship with your child which will make it easier to enforce rules later.

Visit our Talking Points page for more age-specific tips and downloadable guides on navigating the discussion on alcohol and other drugs.


8 Warning Signs That Your Child Has Been Drinking

Alcohol is the most commonly used and misused drug among youth in the United States.1 And according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there were approximately 10 million underage drinkers in 2010.2

As a parent, you want what’s best for your child, which is why it’s important to proactively prevent them from drinking. But how can you tell if your child has been drinking or experimenting with alcohol? Sometimes, it’s not always as obvious as you smelling booze on their clothing.

Warning Signs To Look Out For

Here are a few common changes in your kid’s physical appearance and behavior that may be warning signs that they have been drinking:

  1. Mood changes: flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness
  2. School problems: poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent disciplinary action
  3. Pushing boundaries: rebellion against family rules
  4. Friend group changes: switching friends and a reluctance to let you get to know the new friends
  5. A “nothing matters” attitude: sloppy appearance, a lack of involvement in former interests, and general low energy
  6. Alcohol presence: finding it in your child’s room or backpack or smelling alcohol on his or her breath
  7. Physical or mental problems: memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech
  8. Secretiveness: reluctance to share their whereabouts

Although these signs may indicate a problem with alcohol or other substances, some also reflect normal growing pains, which is why it’s important not to jump to conclusions. However, if you notice several of these signs at the same time, if they occur suddenly, or if they are extreme in nature, it may be indicative of a drinking problem. 

What To Do If Your Child Has Been Drinking

Remain calm – While it may seem difficult in the moment to stay calm, it’s important not to immediately jump to conclusions or play the blame game. Let your child know that you are aware that they have been drinking, then take some time to settle down, to ease out of whatever shock, anger, or powerlessness you may be feeling.

Talk about what happened –  Listen to your kid, gathering information about their perspective of what happened, why, and what they think now. Through their own processing, your child can decide alcohol is bad for them on their own.

Help them understand why alcohol is harmful to them – Explain to your child the dangerous long-term effects of alcohol. Make it clear that you’re not just being irrational and emphasize your concern for their safety.

Identify steps for future prevention – Having reflected on the situation, it’s time to partner with your kid for the future. What consequences are necessary now and what can be put in place to break the pattern for next time? 

And Remember…

It’s important to remember that this is not a one-time discussion, but rather an ongoing conversation. Keep an eye on your child and check in with them regularly, because young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. 

Parent Up is here to help. Check out our collection of online tools and resources for more facts on drinking, tips for starting a conversation with your child, and tips on how you can prevent underage drinking.

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2007.


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