According to 2019 data, nearly one-third of high schoolers had consumed alcohol in the previous month, putting them at risk of later addiction.

You’ve realized that your child has an alcohol problem. This is not your fault, but it is now your responsibility to find help for your child. What do you do?

Article at a Glance:

  • If your teen is abusing alcohol, you may think it’s just a phase they’ll outgrow. The reality is that alcoholism is a legitimate medical condition that warrants treatment.
  • Statistics show that alcohol consumption and binge drinking are relatively common among teens, making alcohol abuse an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
  • Teens may drink because of peer pressure, witnessing parents or siblings drinking or to treat an underlying mental health condition like depression or ADHD.
  • Talking to your teen about alcoholism will probably be easier if you choose a time when they’re sober and make an effort to remain calm and express that they are not in trouble.

Talking About Alcoholism with Your Teenager

We know that this is incredibly difficult for you — you never dreamed your child would need rehab, and you wish the alcohol issue would just go away on its own. But imagine this scenario: If you saw a large wound on your child’s arm, you would immediately bring them to the doctor.

Similarly, alcoholism is a disease that requires medical treatment. Just like an open wound, alcohol addiction will only fester and worsen if left untreated. Treatment for teens is especially critical, as youth drinking statistics are staggering:

  • As of 2019, 29% of high school students indicated they had consumed alcohol in the previous month, and 14% had engaged in binge drinking.
  • In a given month, 5% of teens drive after consuming alcohol, and 17% ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking.
  • Some research shows that alcohol consumption increases as teens grow older, as up to 34% of 12th-grade students report drinking in a given month. One survey found that 17% of students this age reported binge drinking in the previous two weeks.

Binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse, which can lead to addiction among teens and adults. The longer your child’s alcohol abuse continues, the more dire the consequences and the more difficult treatment will be. Talk to your child as soon as you can about any issues you’re seeing. They need you now more than ever — they cannot fix this problem on their own. We can help you through it.

How to Talk a Teen About a Drinking Problem

Confronting underage alcohol use, especially heavy alcohol use, can be tricky. Understand that conversations are more effective than confrontations — nobody responds well to accusatory remarks. That said, there is a wrong way and a right way to approach the subject.

We’ve outlined a few of our most effective tips below:

  • Wait until they are sober, if possible: Your message may not sink in if your child has been drinking too much when you initiate this discussion. This will most likely be early in the day. Moreover, if you are able to catch your child when they are hungover, their physical discomfort could help drive the point home.
  • Offer concern, not judgment: Use caring words that show you are concerned for your child. Use “I” statements. You might say something like, “I love you very much and I am concerned for your health. I’ve noticed that you have been getting drunk a lot. I know that sometimes it’s hard to stop drinking once you have started.”
  • Be prepared for pushback: Your teen may deny that they have a problem. They might claim that their drinking habits are the same as all their friends and that no one has a problem. Be prepared to point out specific examples of the impact that your teen’s drinking has had on their life. Perhaps their grades have dipped, they have missed school, lost friends, landed in the hospital, or gotten into legal trouble — all of which can be consequences of drugs and alcohol abuse.
  • Stay calm: Even if your child becomes angry or combative, remain on an even keel. Assure your child that you are not going to punish them for their drinking — you just want them to get better.
  • Tell them you love them: Say this over and over. A teenager can never hear this phrase enough from their parents. This should be the overarching theme of your conversation.
  • Get professional help: If you are not comfortable bringing up this subject alone, enlist the help of a treatment professional. This might be a trusted therapist who specializes in addiction, your child’s school guidance counselor, or one of our addiction specialists at The Recovery Village, whose confidential help is available for free.

Does Your Child Need to Attend Alcohol Rehab?

The stigma of alcoholism can often deter families from seeking the help they need. If you need some free guidance in this matter (or just some moral support as you get ready to have the conversation), we are here for you. Call us or drop us a line any time.

Our experienced addiction experts also can help you find just the right alcohol rehab program. If you need help wading through the sea of insurance requirements, we can guide you through that, too. If you just want a listening ear, we are here for you.

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Editor – Erica Weiman
Erica Weiman graduated from Pace University in 2014 with a master's in Publishing and has been writing and editing ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Underage Drinking.” October 6, 2021. Accessed October 16, 2021.

University of Michigan Health. “Teens and Alcohol.” May 2018. Accessed October 16, 2021.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.