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How can I tell if my teenage son is drinking lots of alcohol, as I suspect

01:00 Thu 11th Apr 2002 |

asks adryley:
All children try alcohol once in a while - it's estimated that 94% of kids in the UK have tried it by the age of 16. However, it's important you know whether it's just normal teenage experimentation, or turning into a serious problem.

Q. How can I tell
Do his friends drink or talk about drinking You have to read between the lines because much of the talk will be teenage bravado.

Is he going about with a new group of friends He could be under peer pressure to drink. Do you know where they hang out, what they do

Look out for warning signs such as:

  • Does he smell of alcohol: check his breath and his clothes. Eating mints all the time can be a give-away.
  • Does he sometimes lose co-ordination or slur his words
  • Has something changed recently - is he staying off school because he can't get up in the morning because he was drinking the night before Has he started staying out later and later Has his standard of schoolwork declined
  • Has he asked you for more money over time, or have you noticed cash going missing Alcohol is expensive and the money's got to come from somewhere.
  • Has his mood changed. It's not unusual for teenagers' mood to alter dramatically, but drinking alcohol may cause aggression or depression - or both.

Q. What can I do if he has been drinking too much
Experts emphasise that it's vital to separate your child from his behaviour - i.e. recognise that he's the same person but that alcohol is causing his problems.

Look at why he is drinking: is it peer pressure Are there problems at school Is he bored and needs something to do Has there been a recent family trauma By understanding his problem, you may be able to help him deal with it in another way.

The first thing to do is talk, say the experts, not shout, scream or threat. That will just push him further away. Explain that you are concerned and want to help. If that doesn't work, get some help. He may find it easier to talk to someone else, so bring in a friend or relative he respects . Contact Al-Anon, a charity which helps families and friends of problem drinkers.

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By Sheena Miller

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