8 Reasons Teens Experiment with Alcohol
No parent wants to think about their teens experimenting with alcohol. Unfortunately, it happens all too often. Statistics show that about one-third of high school students have consumed alcohol within the last month and that 17 percent of them rode with a driver who had been drinking.1 The average age that girls have their first drink is 13, while for boys, it's 11. I fit in with those teen alcohol statistics, as I had my first drink of alcohol at age 14. These facts are pretty frightening for parents of teens, who may wonder what they can do to prevent their kids from trying alcohol. But to help kids abstain from alcohol until they are older, it's important for parents to understand why teens experiment with alcohol in the first place.
Reasons Teenagers Experiment with Alcohol
- They're bored. One of the most common reasons teens start experimenting with alcohol is that they are bored. They don’t have deeper interests and they see drinking alcohol as something to be explored. It may be a good idea to provide your teen with additional responsibilities or get them involved in extracurricular activities to keep them busy. This isn’t a fix-all, but it may help those teens who are drinking simply because they’re bored.
- They want to fit in. When teens are shy or feel like they don’t fit in, they are more likely to try drinking alcohol to be like other kids. This is especially true of teens just starting high school and freshmen in college. Beginning a new chapter in their lives with new social groups and lots of uncertainty is hard for teens. If you can encourage them to make friends in a healthy way, like through clubs or sports, it’s less likely that they will drink merely to fit in.
- They are self-medicating. Teenagers go through emotional ups and downs just as adults do. They also have raging hormones to contend with. When they don’t have a healthy outlet for expressing their feelings and frustrations, they may begin to use alcohol in an attempt to escape or self-medicate. This isn’t just particular to teens -- many adults do the same thing. The key is to help your teen develop a healthy way of dealing with their emotions. For some teens, this simply means that you are there as a parent or them to talk to, for others it may mean therapy or counseling is necessary.
- They're curious. There is a lot of drinking that is portrayed on television and in the movies as glamorous and fun. The realities of substance abuse and addiction aren’t shown nearly as much. This and the fact that kids are curious by nature can quickly lead to teens wondering how it feels to be drunk or high. Unfortunately, in addition to being curious, teens are often unable to believe that anything bad can happen to them. That can be a recipe for disaster. Make sure that your teens understand the negative consequences that can occur if they drink alcohol.
- They're rebelling. As kids reach adolescence, there is a natural “pulling away” from their parents as they are beginning to want their independence. For some teens, it’s a simple as expressing their own opinions and making more decisions on their own. But for some, it becomes a time of rebellion and acting out, and that may include trying alcohol. If you have a teen who is rebelling in a negative way, counseling may help you before it gets out of hand ("Parenting Teens Who Have Addictions").
- They're stressed. High school and the beginning of college can be stressful times for teens. They have grades, relationships, social pressures, and may have part-time jobs – all things that can lead to added stress. Because they haven’t yet developed coping skills to handle those pressures, they may turn to alcohol as a way to cope. Try to get your teens to talk to you and let you know how you can help with the things they are worried about.
- They have self-esteem issues. Teenagers, especially those between the ages of 14 and 16, often have low self-esteem if they feel like they don’t fit in or don’t have many friends. The media, other teens, and sometimes family put pressure on teens to look and behave a certain way and they lose confidence in themselves if they don’t meet those standards. Alcohol may seem like a solution because it lowers inhibitions and gives a false sense of confidence. Be sure that you let your kids know how special they are and how proud of them you are to help build their self-esteem.
- They feel peer pressure. Peer pressure is as old as time – kids want to be like their friends. When all their friends are drinking alcohol and they want your teenager to join them, it’s very hard for your teen to say no. Make sure that your teen feels comfortable and empowered enough that they can make the right decisions when peer pressure comes up.
Talk to Your Teens About the Dangers of Experimenting with Alcohol
The best thing that you can do to help your teen avoid the dangers of substance abuse and addiction is to talk to them. Keep the paths of communication open, not only about drugs and alcohol, but also about their life, their friends, and their feelings. And if your teen does become a drug or alcohol user or abuser, get them help right away. Addiction isn’t a phase that they will outgrow, it’s something that almost always requires professional help to overcome.
DeLoe, J. (2018, September 27). 8 Reasons Teens Experiment with Alcohol, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2018/9/8-reasons-teens-experiment-with-alcohol