We’ve all had phases when we were young that we drank heavily with our friends. That’s what your high school and college years are for, right? To experiment and have fun with friends?
Although underage drinking has decreased recently, it’s still fairly common, and in moderation it shouldn’t be too much of a concern. Sometimes these behaviors can be dangerous and lead to binge drinking throughout their adult years.
It’s important to understand why teenagers are drinking. Who, or what is influencing them to drink? There are several factors that go into making that choice, including family history, academic pressure, learned coping strategies, peers and friends, and what parents say and do. One of the most important of these is the group of young people they see and associate with daily. New research tells us that friends are important when it comes to the decision to drink.
Let’s take a deeper look at what influences adolescents to start drinking alcohol, and why some of these factors can be dangerous.
Friends vs. Peers
If you remember your days in high school, you probably remember what it was like to want to fit in with other teens. Sure, you wanted to forge your own identity, but finding a place in the pack was important too. Peer pressure is a powerful force, and the desire to fit in or to not look like a wimp in front of peers has led many a teen to make poor choices. The good news is that research now tells us close friends are much more influential than peers at large. The study comes from Indiana University and researchers interested in how, why, and when teens start drinking. The most recent study looked in particular at how social connections influence teen drinking, and to investigate this factor the researchers looked at survey data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.
The 15-year-olds surveyed were asked about their drinking habits and those of their friends and peers. While researchers have long known that peers and friends influence teens’ drinking choices, no study had yet figured out which was more important: friends or peers. The results clearly showed that close friends were far more important in making the decision to drink than peers. Even when teens knew that their peers were drinking a lot, their own choices reflected only those of their close circles of friends.
What does this study tell us? Basically, if you notice your teen has been drinking a lot more than normal, you need to pay attention to your child’s closest friends. Their friends could potentially be a bad influence, which means you need to communicate with your child and explain to them why drinking heavy amounts, especially at a young age, is dangerous to their health.
Parents Trump All
Knowing that friends can influence a teen’s choices about drinking is crucial. It means that forming friend groups has a serious impact on whether a teen will drink. While it might seem like peers and friends should be the biggest factors in the choices teens make, they aren’t. What parents say and do influences teen choices more than anything else. Research shows teens whose parents talk to them about drinking are much less likely than other teens to drink.
This means your child is paying attention to you and your bad habits. If the adults in your teen’s life drinks heavily, they may think this is normal, and may replicate this behavior. Like we’ve mentioned before, it’s so important to communicate with your child and let them know how dangerous heavy drinking is.
For parents who want their teens to abstain, talking about underage drinking and setting a good example is crucial. It is the best way to influence teens positively. With the new research about the influences of friends and peers, parents have another tool for preventing drinking. Because we now know that friends are a major influence, more so than peers, parents should take a greater interest in the friends of their teens.
How Can I Help My Teen If They’re Still Drinking?
If you’ve realized your child is acting differently and drinking more frequently, that is an essential first step. If these issues go unnoticed for too long, it can cause serious problems in time.
The next step is to communicate with your child. Ask them about these new changes that they’re going through, how they’re feeling and why they’ve been drinking frequently. It’s important for your teen to know that if they are self-medicating due to a mental illness, like depression or anxiety, they are not alone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The mistake most parents make is to take the authoritarian route: “This is not OK,” “This stops now,” “You’re ruining your life,” etc. This usually serves the purpose of pushing teens further away and deeper into use.
Avoid shaming and blaming at all costs. Focus on understanding why your teen is using and then work together WITH them to find alternative strategies that could work. Help them envision goals in their lives and discuss ways to achieve them.
When you talk with your child, simply listening to them can be the most important thing you can do. Making your teen feel like they’re able to talk honestly about how they feel can help them open up and feel less isolated.
It could also be beneficial to speak with their teachers, or even their friends, to know how your teen is acting outside of your home. This could be especially helpful if your child is unwilling to open up about their depression, anxiety, or drinking habits.
Now you’re probably wondering how an alcoholism treatment program works, what type of options are out there for your child and how they can learn healthy coping mechanisms that don’t involve drinking.
Alcoholism Treatment Program Options for Your Child
Although every mental health diagnosis and teen is different, if your child is drinking because they feel depressed or anxious, it could be beneficial for your teen to go through an alcoholism treatment program that includes dual-diagnosis treatment.
What does this mean? Dual-diagnosis treatment aims to treat the substance abuse disorder in patients along with underlying mental illnesses. Learning new ways to cope with stress is an essential skill learned during this treatment process.
Alcoholism treatment programs can be done in both in-patient and out-patient rehab. The main difference between these options is in-patient rehab allows your child to reside in a rehab facility for 30 days, 24 hours a day and is more intense treatment.
Out-patient rehab allows your teen to attend therapy sessions and other forms of treatment for a few hours a week, but can reside in their own home. This is a more popular option for adolescents as they’re able to receive treatment and still attend school, work at their job, or other duties they have. But at the end of the day, every case is different and this decision is up to you and your family.
Bricolage Behavioral Health is Here for the Teens of Flower Mound
Our staff at Bricolage Behavioral Health understand how heartbreaking it can be to watch your child suffer in any way. We’re here to help you and your family get your child’s life back on track with our alcoholism treatment program that focuses on mental health.
Located on Long Prairie Road, near Firewheel Drive and the Montessori Rainbow School, and close to one of Flower Mound’s large residential areas, we are convenient to reach out to.
Seek professional help for your teen before it spirals out of control. Bricolage will make sure your child is in the right hands.
Call Bricolage Behavioral Health for a Mental Health Assessment for Your Child or Teen Today: 469-968-5700. You can also learn more about our program here.