A Problem Shared: My Teenage Son Drinks

A Problem Shared Health | by | 19th Aug 2016

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Teenage drinking is proving a real headache for Dad Matt from the Vale of Glamorgan and his 16-year-old son. Do you have any advice for this week’s A Problem Shared…?

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Hey FamilyPoint I’m in a bit of a pickle. My 16-year-old son drinks and drinks regularly. I’ve told him to ease up but he’s not taking a blind bit of notice.

The thing is I introduced him to beer and wine like my old man did, a little bit here and there to get used to it, to respect it, so that he wouldn’t go behind my back and down the park with a bottle of White Lightning or whatever and get into trouble. Except he’s now sneaking out and drinking god knows where. He denies it but it’s pretty bleeding obvious.

I’m annoyed with myself and I’m annoyed with him. I’m finding it difficult to reason with him as I used to give him the odd beer and now when I say it’s against the law, he comes back with all this attitude, saying that I’m a lawbreaker as well and it quickly becomes yet another bloody argument.

I thought I was doing the right and responsible thing, like the French do with watered-down wine at meals for the kids and stuff but it’s clearly blown up in my face. When I ground him, we just end up fighting. I’m sick and tied of it. Any tricks on how to stop him drinking and stop all the arguments?

Our FamilyPoint advice to Matt…

Hi Matt, thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint.

I’m quite sure that this is a situation that many parents of teens find themselves in at some point.

The first you need to do is to stop blaming yourself. You did what you thought was right when you gave your son small amounts of alcohol to try. Your intentions were good. As you pointed out, other cultures do exactly what you did as a matter of course. There will be many parents who haven’t done this and will still find their teenagers drinking secretively.

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Have you discussed why your son is choosing to drink? The best time to do this would be when both of you are calm. When he’s just come in drunk would not be the best time as emotions will be running high then for both of you. Perhaps there is a reason other than just doing what his friends are doing. Is school/work OK? Is something worrying him that he just wants to forget for a while and he’s using alcohol to do it?

It sounds like he knows the legal facts about drinking alcohol as he’s using those points in his arguments with you, but does he know the potential consequences of drinking excessive alcohol regularly and in particular at such a young age? There’s a great website called The Mix that you could show him that’s aimed at his age group and which has lots of interesting and informative articles and videos he could take a look at.

“You’re doing the right thing.”

From what you’ve said you’re trying to give him some consequences by grounding him. You mention the arguments that you then have. This I think is quite normal. No 16 year old will be happy to be grounded. It’s important however that there are consequences to his actions, as this will prepare him for adult life where he will have to make lots of choices. You’re doing the right thing.

I’m sure you’ve thought about how he’s managing to get the alcohol? Is it possible that he could be taking it from home? If so, perhaps you could lock it away. If he’s buying it with money he gets from yourself or other family members, perhaps you could stop giving him cash. Buy what he needs yourself.

Again, he won’t like this approach but sometimes we do have to make difficult decisions to keep our young people safe. Alternatively, if you know which shop he’s managing to buy it from, perhaps you could pass this information on to the police or your local trading standards?

Gym pic for My Teenage Drinking article

Is it the same night(s) of the week that he’s drinking? Could you perhaps think of ways to keep him occupied on those nights… maybe do things together, or encourage him to take up a hobby? Going to the gym maybe? This could improve his self-esteem – most teenagers struggle with their self-esteem – and make him more conscious of leading a healthy lifestyle.

“No 16 year old will be happy to be grounded.”

Ultimately however, teenagers are of course very strong willed and this might have to just be a phase that you support him through. Many teenagers experiment with alcohol and have no long lasting effects. That doesn’t mean however that you have to stop trying to keep him safe – that is after all the most important thing – it might just mean that you have a couple of difficult years ahead where you have to be the bad guy who enforces the rules.

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If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday – Thursday 6pm – 10pm and Friday & Saturday 10am – 2pm.


The FamilyPoint Cymru Team

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