How To Set Strong Boundaries With Children About Drinking

As a parent, you want the absolute best for your children. You spend quite a bit of time teaching them how to make decisions that will benefit them now and down the road as an adult.

When it comes to drinking, you certainly want to educate your children about alcohol and encourage them to steer clear from the substance.

At the very least, you don’t want your children to try drinking at a young age. Maybe you can be on board if they want to have a social drink when they are adults, but as teenagers, you may be inclined to believe that they are not old enough to handle the responsibility.

As such, just how do you set strong boundaries with children about drinking? What if you and/or your spouse drink? Does this make a difference in what you should expect from your children? Will teens be more apt to rebel or sneak off and drink if you set strong boundaries?

These are all great questions. Today, let’s discuss a bit about setting strong boundaries when it comes to alcohol and your children.


A father talking to his daughter


Setting boundaries is important

As a parent, setting boundaries in various areas for your children is important. Boundaries give children guidelines for living, and children need such guidelines. When it comes to alcohol or drugs, teens need to understand the dangers of substance abuse and what is expected of them from parents. It’s an area that parents need to be involved in.


Teens are susceptible

The teen years can be tough for both the teen and the parents. The teen years are the years when children become young adults and are trying to find a healthy balance between depending on parents and becoming independent. They’re trying to fit in with peers and figure out who they are. They don’t always make the best decisions, and can easily succumb to peer pressure when it comes to alcohol or drugs. They are susceptible, which is why it is important for parents to begin setting strong boundaries with them at an early age.


Have a zero-tolerance policy

Establishing strong boundaries with children about drinking usually requires a zero-tolerance policy. This means that you sit down and have an honest and open communication with your teen. You let him or her know that under no circumstances is it acceptable that they drink – not even one drink. This is where you as a parent offer tough love in establishing clear and firm boundaries.

Now, you may be tempted to try to be the “cool” parent that let’s their teens have a couple drinks at home, but allowing your teens to drink any amount of alcohol sets a poor example. Understanding the short and long-term effects of the addictive substance should prompt you to have a zero-tolerance policy for your teens.


Young girl in a field


Establish boundaries and consequences

Setting strong boundaries with your children about drinking is commendable. Now, if they happen to break the rules, there ought to be consequences to follow. Let your teens know up front what the consequences will be if they choose to drink. Will you ground them? For how long? Will you take away privileges? Which ones and for how long? What if they continue to drink? What will the consequences be then?

For many teens, taking away privileges for a considerable amount of time may be enough to help them determine that drinking is not worth the results. Keep in mind that grounding your teen for a short time (like a week), may not be a strong enough consequence to keep them from engaging in drinking again. You’ve got to really hit them where they will feel the pain, so-to-speak.

Consequences that work fairly well are taking away their technology for a month. This means their phones, iPads, and television. This may sound very harsh, but substance abuse is harsher. If your teen becomes addicted to alcohol, he or she has much more to lose than technology. You may also try grounding your teen (not allowing him or her to go out with friends) for a considerable amount of time. This oftentimes helps teens change behavior quite quickly.

You may be tempted to let a first offense go or let them off early. Don’t. Having strong boundaries, especially up front, sends your teen a huge message that zero tolerance means zero tolerance. They may thank you for this once they become an adult and witness first hand friends and acquaintances who have become addicted to alcohol.


Educate your children

Setting strong boundaries with your children about drinking will go much further if you take time to teach them about the negative effects of alcohol. Sure, the media portrays drinking as one of the best ways to have a good time. There are plenty of commercials that show men and women drinking and having a blast. What they don’t show is those who are addicted to alcohol or those who have lost so much because they cannot stop drinking.


A parent talking to her daughter


Teach them about the disease of alcoholism and the effects it can have on the alcoholic and loved ones. There are even some cities that offer family trainings that show teens exactly what would occur if they were convicted of a drug charge or something like driving under the influence of alcohol. Take the time to watch a documentary or pass along a book geared for teens on the ill effects of alcohol. When teens can become conscious of the truth about alcohol as a drug, they are less likely to drink.


Take the initiative

Be proactive when it comes to talking to your teen about drinking. Chances are they will have the opportunity to drink and may want to try it. Our culture promotes drinking on many levels, so they may think that drinking is alright. It’s up to you to give them the full and clear picture of alcohol.

Try not to lecture them relentlessly and do allow them to share their opinion. The odds are that they will have a friend or two that engages in drinking, and plenty of acquaintances. Try not to freak out, but do have a heart to heart with them, expressing your concern about alcohol. Connect with them at a heart level, and check in with them on occasion regarding the matter.

Navigating the teen years can sometimes pose a challenge, but when you set strong boundaries regarding drinking, teens are less apt to freely engage in the behavior. Should your teen continually break the rules, and you fear he or she is addicted, consider reaching out for help from a substance abuse professional for some solid advice. You do not have to navigate such circumstances alone.

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