The Today Show had a segment on the age old topic of teen drinking. Menlo Park, California parents had a party with their son’s friends’; the local cops came by to follow up on an anonymous tip and of course they found booze. Father was arrested.
Teen drinking has been a serious problem for a very long time and with all of our high tech instruments and knowledge we somehow still are not treating this problem with the seriousness that it deserves. Nothing will change by arresting parents. The truth is that just because kids can talk and manipulate their way to find alcohol doesn’t mean that a teen knows the implications of what they are doing. And when we look at brain development, we now know that teens may very well be biologically incapable of having the proper judgment to make the right decision at the time. Therefore, group pressure wins out, and teens wind up doing things that they may not ordinarily do. In today’s culture, generally speaking, parents are more concerned with being friends with their kids. They give up their authority at a time when their kid needs them to be that authority. The result of this is obvious – No one is minding the store (read no one is taking responsibility.) In the end, teen drinking becomes a blame game and we hold parents responsible.
From where I sit, as a psychotherapist working with teens, I listen to stories of how this one “used a fake ID” or that one “downed 10 shots” of vodka. Parents are often physically in the house. The fact is that teenagers take advantage of exhausted parents (those people who gave them life) who are not communicating effectively with each other and have different parenting standards. If we want to begin to address this problem, we must address it on a local level. Parents need to make the time to attend teen parenting classes and apply what they learn through homework assignments. After applying interventions, these parent participants return to the group to report the results of their experience. A group of parents can offer support and bolster one another more than we realize. Parents also need to understand that the job of parenting requires a parent to be stricter and more on top of their game then they may want to be. There is no place for passive parenting during the teen years. By the way, why are parents leaving the job of parenting to local enforcement agents? If we decide to become parents then we need to see the job through to completion. Last checked, they don’t have what it takes to parent one’s kid.
It is time to tackle the problem of teenage drinking in a smarter, more sophisticated way! Do we dare to risk losing our children?

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