Ask your kid to make a personal commitment to abstinence. Then make them give their word in front of the whole family (including grandma and favorite Uncle Bob). Make sure they don’t give their word lightly. If they won’t commit to abstinence, be disappointed about their decision but proud of their integrity. This reinforces the importance of integrity and honesty. But that doesn’t mean they are off the hook. If they can’t commit to abstinence, end the conversation with, “It means a lot to me that you won’t just say what I want you to say. However, you know I’m going to make it very hard for you to get away with drinking because it is that important to me.” Commitment or no commitment, it will be important to . . .
Review (or establish) an alcohol and drug policy
The goal of an A&D policy is to monitor their behavior, add extra incentive to avoid using and to let your kid see the tangible effects of breaking the rules (i.e., loss of freedom). In addition, if they are busted again you will know alcohol is more of a problem than you thought. There are a few basic components of an alcohol and drug policy to include.
1. Zero tolerance. The policy with the least risks is zero-tolerance. No drinking, ever. (Research suggests that parent permission for responsible alcohol or drug use by teens doesn’t work.)
2. Clean sweep. Together you and your teen need to collect and discard all remaining alcohol and alcohol containers. This will be their one chance to come clean about all the stuff they’ve stashed. Anything found from this point forward is a new infraction.
3. Busted. Make it clear what will constitute a violation of the policy. This should include the presence of alcohol (regardless of whether they were just holding for their friend), being under the influence, a positive alcohol test or paraphernalia (i.e., empty alcohol containers, etc.).
4. Full grounding for two weeks. Your kid needs time to think about their decisions. You need time to make sure they haven’t lost their mind. Intensive quality time with the family is perfect for this. Ground them for two weeks. Have them go everywhere with you. Talk to them about everything you always wanted to discuss with them. Listen to music (YOUR music), together. Watch YOUR favorite shows, together. Watch the shows their younger siblings like, together. It will be a time to bond (making them either absolutely miserable or happy. Win-win).
5. Partial grounding for another two weeks. Gradually begin to loosen the reins again after two weeks. Limit time out (e.g., you can only go over to John’s house for two hours). Require them to be extra conscientious about telling you where they go and keeping curfews, etc. Any complaining and it’s back to full grounding and more bonding time, together.