During the holiday season, accidents caused by alcohol consumption increase astronomically, and teen alcohol consumption increases as well—if for no other reason than adult usage increases, which in turn increases teenagers’ access to the substance.
When you consider the pressures of the holiday season, this is not surprising. Although meant to be fun and enjoyable, the holidays often can bring up old ghosts and demons of family conflict. For teenagers in particular, holidays trigger expectations of gifts, rewards, and positive outcomes. If such expectations fail to materialize, a teen can rebel in anger.
A favorite saying in many 12-Step programs is “an expectation is a resentment under construction”. When a teen’s expectations are not met, they become resentful. Often, such resentment creates a backlash. Hence, the teen wants to escape the uncomfortable feeling. For many teens, their best idea of escape is to use alcohol to manage stress. This is a truly dangerous outcome.
As a parent, you can help your teen avoid this outcome. Also, you can make sure your teen doesn’t fall into the holiday traps of using alcohol as a form of celebration. By helping your teen avoid alcohol during the holidays, you are preventing what could be a potential disaster.
Helping Teens Avoid Alcohol During the Holidays
There are steps you can take to help protect teens from the risks associated with drinking during the holidays. Here are just a few:
- Don’t allow teen alcohol use in any amount. Some parents are permissive about alcohol use. Even parents who are stricter may relax and agree to either look the other way to permit teen drinking. Don’t do it. Some teens may start behaviors that are permitted during the holidays, creating a year-round issue. Furthermore, those who have a problem may be confused by the changing attitudes and shifting boundaries.
- Provide supervision at family gatherings and neighborhood parties. Family functions and holiday parties are common during this time of year. While adults hit the eggnog, kids may sneak a few drinks of their own. Make sure that you make your expectations of behavior clear to your teens. Offer alternative entertainment, and ensure that there is proper supervision.
- Talk to your teen about avoiding alcohol use. Discuss the behaviors you expect from your teen over the holiday season. Set them up for success. Should they decide to break the rules, make sure that the consequences are clear. In addition, follow through. Set the precedent now for the behavior that you expect for the rest of the year.
- Set up a “bailout” plan for your teen. In some cases, your teen may find themselves in a situation where their designated driver is no longer in a condition to drive. It’s important that he or she feel safe enough to call you for a sober ride, even with the understanding that you don’t condone their drinking or the drinking of their friends. Make it clear that it’s not worth the risk for them to accept a ride with someone who is impaired for any reason and that you will make sure they get home safely without reprimand.
How do you plan to help your teen avoid drinking during the holidays? There are many things you can do to boost your resolve. The first priority is always to take care of oneself.