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Show your child there’s no wrong time to talk. Checking in and communicating is a way to  show you care about their health and love them.

Build your child’s skills for refusing a drink if offered. It takes time. Take time to talk often instead of saving it all up.  

Having a plan and knowing what to say in any situation can ease anxiety. Spend time going over a plan before it even has a chance to happen.  


Not drinking alcohol underage is part of a bigger picture of healthy child development. 


Parents show love to children in many ways. Building up their confidence and skills to say no to underage drinking is important in teaching them to advocate for  themselves. 

Funded in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery through a  grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

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The Alcohol & Mental Health Connection

UNDERAGE alcohol use is tied to more than academic and social problems for youth. Teens may turn to alcohol to help them manage difficult feelings or high stress levels. However, adolescent brains are still developing, and drinking alcohol underage can quickly have problematic results.  

Simply put, alcohol use is riskier for teens. When adults drink, they tend to become more subdued and slower, but it’s quite the opposite in adolescents. Teens can become energetic and then engage in more risky  behavior. Behaviors that come as a result of poor-decision making, that they may not have otherwise engaged in without alcohol. 

Teens with depression, anxiety, or ADHD  are at particular risk. Youth struggling with depression can see an increase in suicidal  thoughts and youth living with ADHD can increase impulsive behaviors because of drinking alcohol.  

Take time to talk with your children about  not drinking alcohol underage and the consequences in your home if they are caught. Their mental health depends on it.



There is more research about youth and alcohol than when you were a teen. We know that alcohol is the number one substance used by youth. 

Here are other things we now know:

We know that drinking as a teen means a higher risk for alcohol use disorder later in life.

We know drinking alcohol underage can change the actual structure of your teen's brain causing cognitive problems.

We know underage alcohol use can cause your teen to make risky choices they would not have otherwise leaving a bad mark on their future plans.

Alcohol can cause damage to the brain, which is still developing into our mid-20s! Underage drinking can leave effects long after the alcohol leaves a child's body. When we know better, we can do better.

Sources:, Funded in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.

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That’s why it’s important to talk with them about not using alcohol underage before it becomes a big  event. 

Try not to make the topic bigger in your mind than it is, whether you plan on a one on-one conversation or a family discussion. No way is wrong.  

Your child should know you do not approve of them drinking alcohol underage and if  they did drink, they would likely be caught. Setting rules for your family is just one way  you take care of them every day. 

Rules to think about: 

• No drinking alcohol until age 21.

• Do not stay at teen parties where alcohol is present. 

• When they arrive home from being out with friends, let them know you want a  

hug and hello before they head to their rooms.  

• Older siblings do not encourage younger ones to drink and do not provide alcohol to anyone – including family. 

• Do not ride in a car with a driver (of any  age!) who has been drinking. 

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Children can disagree with your household rules but that doesn’t mean the rule has to change. They’re allowed to be upset about it and you’re allowed to take a stand against underage drinking.

• Make sure your teen knows the harmful effects of drinking alcohol underage.  

• Get to know their friends’ parents and their views on underage drinking. Advocate for keeping teens  alcohol-free. 

• Once you have rules in place there should be consequences if broken. 

We all know parenting doesn’t get easier over time – it just changes. Keeping your household rules relevant and age-appropriate for your child is important. Don’t let your silence on a topic be thought of as approval.


Funded in whole or in part by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery through a  grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration.




As our children  get older, the topics get harder. Whether you  are personally familiar with the risks of teen drinking or not, your perspective still  matters. Don’t let your own experiences discourage you from talking with your children about not using alcohol while underage. Setting rules and relevant consequences now will benefit your family  for the years to come. 

Children need to know you have their back,  but it is equally important for them to know  your rules regarding drinking alcohol underage – it is not allowed. It can be a hard line to draw but it’s just one of many that parents are responsible for. The line is this - drinking underage is not allowed in our family. Children are allowed to disagree  with the rules set by adults but that does not mean the rules have to change.  

Research shows that teens think their parents should have a say if they drink  alcohol underage. Really! So, discuss the family rules and don’t let parental silence be mistaken for approval. 

There is one thing all caregiver can agree on.

It is not always easy to talk to your children.




Whether they admit it or not, your teen still  needs you. They look to you for guidance even when you least expect it, looking for support and reassurance. Children and teens thrive in  an environment with safe boundaries, so show them you’ve got their back: 

Your teens may feel relief that you support them in staying alcohol-free. It gives them license to use it as their reason to refuse a drink if offered.  

Assist them in finding alternative activities when they don’t want to join their friend group for whatever reason. 

When your teen comes home from being with friends, greet them when they arrive home. A hug and “good night” let them know you care about what they were up to while out that night.




A Lifetime Perspective

Many days raising children are chock full of the here and now issues, it  can be hard to think long-term. Parents and caretakers grow as much as the children do while cruising through adolescence. Constantly preparing your child for adulthood is an endurance race.  

Keeping your child healthy by talking to them about not drinking alcohol is one part of preparing them to live a long, healthy life. It’s just as important as teaching them healthy ways to relieve stress as a tween or brush their teeth when they were toddlers. 

Did you know drinking alcohol underage poses a variety of risks? 
• It increases the likelihood of problematic drinking later in life. 
• It is linked to certain cancers and increases the risk for others. 

Think about how you model alcohol use in  your own life. Your children watch how you act, how and when you consume, and when you say “enough.” Although it may not always be obvious, do not forget that they are constantly watching. 

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