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Establishing Rules About Alcohol for Your Teen

Why Rules About Alcohol?

Whether it’s discovering the liquor cabinet has been opened by your curious eleven-year-old or arguing over your fourteen-year-old attending a friend’s unsupervised party, establishing rules about alcohol can help your family prepare for dealing with challenges cooperatively while building essential skills in your child/teen.

  • In 2020 about 15% of Clay County youth reported that their family did NOT have clear rules about alcohol and drug use.

  • Also, 19% of youth said their parents would NOT know if they did not come home on time.

  • In the same survey 42% of Clay County youth reported that they do not feel like they would be caught by their parents if they drank beer, wine, or hard liquor.

Most parents will face challenges in establishing rules about alcohol. “Why can’t I go to the (unsupervised) party?” you may hear from your child/teen. As children/teens are increasingly influenced by their peers, power struggles can occur when they are eager to do what their friends do regardless of the risks involved. Your child/teen needs your involvement in establishing clear boundaries and providing monitoring and support to navigate peer pressure successfully.

The key to many parenting challenges, like establishing rules about alcohol, is finding ways to communicate so that both your needs and your child’s/teen’s needs are met. The steps below include specific, practical strategies along with effective conversation starters to prepare you.

5 Steps for Establishing Rules About Alcohol

Step 1: Get your teen thinking by getting their input.

  • Ask questions:

  • “What are your hopes for your friendships?”

  • “What are you and your friends most interested in trying that’s new and different?”

  • “Where do you like to hang out with your friends?”

  • “Does alcohol show up at parties with friends, and how do you feel about it?”

Step 2: Teach new skills by interactive modeling.

  • Learn together. Alcohol impacts a child’s/teen’s growing body and brain differently than adults.

  • Discuss values for family health and healthy development.

  • Engage in a discussion about setting up rules about alcohol. You could ask, “What might be some helpful rules we can stick to as a family?”

Avoid the TRAP: Don’t allow sipping alcohol for any person under 21 since it sends a clear message that authority figures feel drinking by children/teens is acceptable.

Step 3: Practice to grow skills and develop habits.

  • Try out the new rules before your child/teen experiences peer pressure and they are in a high stakes setting.

  • Identify with your child/teen their closest friend and discuss the role of a safety buddy.

  • Initiate the no-risk pick up.

Step 4: Support your teen's development and success.

  • Ask key questions to check in. “How are the rules we’ve established? Are they reasonable to you? Are you struggling at all? Are the plans we set up, like your safety buddy, working out so far?”

  • Monitor their activities. Before they go out, be sure you know where they are going, who they’ll be with, and how they are getting there. Verify when they’ll be home. Offer the ride home. And when they get home, be there to greet, hug, and discreetly check their breath.

  • Recognize effort by using “I notice...” statements like,“I noticed how you called me when you were uncomfortable. That’s taking responsibility!”

  • Stay engaged. Be ready to talk when your child/teen is eager.

  • Engage in further practice. If your child/teen shares struggles, explore how you can create additional plans to help them feel supported.

  • Apply logical consequences when needed.

Avoid the TRAP: Don’t create a situation where your rules are so tight, strict, and inflexible that you invite your teen’s rebellion. Show that you value their opinions and are reasonable. Learn together about the risks so that you are revisiting rules as a team.Teens need to understand the importance of rules and why they are reasonable.

Step 5: Recognize effort to foster motivation.

  • Notice small successes. “I notice you designated a safety buddy and got home on time. Yes! Excellent.”

  • Recognize small steps along the way.

  • Build celebrations into your routine. Include hugs, high fives, and fist bumps as ways to appreciate one another.


  • http://kctcdata.org/

  • Center for Health and Safety Culture. (2020). Establishing Rules About Alcohol. Ages 11-14. Retrieved from https://www.ParentingMontana.org.

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