Concerns About Teenage Drinking

Parents, Take the “Prom Promise”

Prom night and graduation parties are upon us. Many teens will take the “Prom Promise” to abstain from drug and alcohol use. Parents need to make a “Prom Promise” too, to be responsible parents that don’t intentionally or inadvertently encourage teen drinking.

Many parents think teenage drinking is inevitable, but it’s not. If parents believe all teens will drink, they are underestimating teens’ abilities to make responsible decisions. They are also making an excuse for abandoning their parental responsibility to educate and guide their children.

It is harder to stop teenage drinking than to prevent it. It is very possible for teens to remain drug/alcohol free, but parents must do their part — and it’s never too early to start:

Teach children how to make responsible decisions and hold them accountable for the decisions they make. This helps children become self-confident and trust their own judgment.

Educate children about the value of responsible use or abstinence. There are many “teachable moments” throughout childhood when parents can make value statements and offer educational information that helps children choose sobriety and resist peer pressure.  If you would like more insights, information and practical tools and tips about helping children develop independence and responsibility, then listen to a one-hour recording of a live workshop called, Serve Up Some Wings So Children Can Leave The Nest.”

Model responsible use or abstinence. Unfortunately, many adults misuse alcohol and brag about their own drinking exploits, which makes irresponsible drinking look fun. To make an educated decision, teens also need to know the down side of drinking: hugging toilets, hangovers, lost work time, poor decisions and regrettable behavior.

Provide fun drug/alcohol-free activities for teens, so they can see that they don’t need to drink to have fun. Help teens think of and practice “cool,” acceptable ways they say “no” to peer pressure, before they are in a risky situation. If peer pressure is intense and other teens won’t take “no” for an answer, tell teens they can call you anytime to pick them up, no questions asked, if that will keep them safe.

Don’t allow teens to drink at home, even at family dinners or they will be more likely to drink with friends. In fact, they will usually brag about their parents’ permission and their prior use, to impress and pressure their peers. It may be legal to let your own children drink at home, but it’s unwise if you want your children to remain drug/alcohol-free.

Never provide alcohol to a person under the age of 21, other than your own child, even if you are simply allowing that person to consume alcohol on your property. It’s illegal. The penalties are jail time, fines, financial responsibility for any personal or property damage and confiscation of personal property. (To report such violations, call a toll-free hotline at 1-877-4-MINORS.)

Take a firm stand on the following issues:

  • No drinking until legal age. Period. Research shows that if a young adult can reach the age of 21 without using tobacco, alcohol or illegal drugs, they are more likely to never start using them. Those that do drink alcohol are more likely to drink responsibly and less likely to develop addictions.
  • You will not rescue teens from the negative consequences of drinking or drug use (except addiction intervention).
  • If teens show they cannot be responsible for obeying laws or controlling themselves around their peers, they will be choosing to give up the privilege of freely socializing with whomever they choose.

It’s critical to reveal these expectations before there is a problem.

Might teens sneak to drink? Yes, but if they have to sneak, it reduces their opportunities to drink, increases their forethought about the consequences of their drinking, and makes them extra careful about returning home sober. In trying not to get caught, they’ll learn to use responsibly.

If parents take this “Prom Promise,” teens will more easily keep their “Prom Promise.” In the process, these teens will have higher self-esteem, more self-respect, better decision-making skills and a willingness to stand up for what they believe. Such inner strength will not only help them resist peer pressure, but they’ll gain the respect and approval of their peers for being so confident. If their peers don’t respect them, they’ll know these are not true friends who want what’s best for them and will find peers more worthy of their friendship.


If you want more insights, information and practical tools and tips about  helping children develop independence and responsibility check out the recommended resources mentioned in this article:




Jody Johnston Pawel is a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Family Life Educator, second-generation parent educator, founder of The Family Network, and President of Parents Toolshop Consulting. She is the author of 100+ parent education resources, including her award-winning book, The Parent’s Toolshop. For 30+ years, Jody has trained parents and family professionals through her dynamic workshops and interviews with the media worldwide, including Parents and Working Mother magazines, and the Ident-a-Kid television series.  Jody currently serves as the online parenting expert for Chic Mom Magazine and dozens of other parenting sites.

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