Son Caught Drinking

"Our 17-year-old son started experimenting with alcohol about two months ago. How will we ever trust him again?"
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Q. "Our 17-year-old son started experimenting with alcohol about two months ago. We had no idea he was drinking until the day I was called to his school where I found him falling-down drunk in the nurse's office! Apparently he and a friend had stolen the liquor the night before from someone's home, hidden it in the other boy's bedroom, and then drank it on the way to school the next day. Of course we grounded him for a long time after this happened, and since this incident he has been very remorseful. However, now that he has regained some of his freedom, I'm very worried because I don't feel I will ever trust him again. Any advice?"

A. As a responsible parent, you have every right to be on alert regarding your son's behavior, particularly with respect to alcohol. He's violated your trust by first stealing liquor and drinking it, and then showing up drunk at school.

Of course you hope that this is a one-time, foolish teenaged prank, and that he's learned his lesson and won't drink again. However, it's doubtful that this will be the case despite your punishment and his declared remorse

It's a fact: Teens drink alcohol. And some parents prefer to call this "experimenting" because it softens the reality that their child is choosing to drink. The reasons teens drink are numerous. Some do it because they want to see how their body will react to this depressant; some want to see if it makes a party more fun, if it will make them feel good, or if they can drink without getting caught.

It's not in your best interest (or your son's) to let this incident slide and simply hope for the best. He drank and then blatantly showed up at school inebriated. Maybe he secretly wanted to get caught -- teens often do things to get a reaction. Perhaps he was hoping that adult authorities -- teachers, counselors, parents -- would help him control his urge to drink or to test boundaries set by society.

Whatever the reason, you need to make your son aware of your concerns for his future. Ask him about his future goals, and tell him -- sincerely and lovingly -- that misusing alcohol might keep him from achieving them. Your son also needs to understand that he has lost your trust in him and he will have to work to regain it.

You may also want to consider sending him to see a counselor whose specialty is substance abuse. This may seem a bit extreme, but a neutral, third party might be better able to lay out the reality of the situation, as well as make him aware of the dangerous consequences of pulling further alcohol-related pranks. This kind of reality check might help to enlighten him about the short- and long-term consequences of drinking and behaviors influenced by drinking.

There are no guarantees or magical solutions in such situations, which is why it is essential that you not treat this situation lightly.


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