My Teen Son is an Alcoholic. How Can I Help Him?

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As a parent, it’s important to give your child privacy, but it’s also important to keep an eye out to make sure he or she isn’t taking part in any potentially damaging behaviors. If you’re worried that your teenage daughter or son might be drinking too much on top of taking part in underage drinking, another behavior you don’t approve of, you’ve come to the right place for help.

“Instead of getting your teen to admit to his or her alcohol use or accusing him or her of it, there are some preventative steps you can take to addressing the issue.”
Since you’re here, you’ve probably already established one of two things—either your teen is hanging out and drinking too much with other kids, or he or she is drinking too much alone. In fact, there’s a good chance your teenager is an alcoholic, even though you don’t want to believe it. While your first thought might be to call your teen out, it’s never a good idea to make accusations. However, in the words of therapists Kimberly Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner, it’s important to remember that there’s “a difference between rescuing your child and going to the other extreme of giving up.”

Instead of getting your teen to admit to his or her alcohol use or accusing him or her of it, there are some preventative steps you can take to addressing the issue. First, if you drink, lock your alcohol up somewhere your teen won’t be able to access it. Better yet, eliminate alcohol completely from your home, or at least only drink it when your child isn’t around. It’s also a good idea to lock up any prescription medications you might have, because just because your teen’s been abusing alcohol doesn’t mean he or she isn’t going to try something else next if it’s available.


You shouldn’t have to worry about whether locking up your alcohol or “teen-proofing” your home is the right thing to do. That’s beside the point; it’s a part of parental responsibility. With alcohol and other substances out of sight, there’s less of a chance your teen will be drinking at home, especially if you monitor his or her bedroom as well.


Remember, it’s your house, and checking your child’s bedroom for illegal substances (for his or her age group) like alcohol is an important step of parental responsibility. Of course it isn’t a good idea to read your kid’s diary, but inspecting the closet and under the bed for signs of his or her alcohol abuse—empty bottles and such—is completely within your rights, especially because he or she is underage. If you know the alcohol problem is there and you can’t confront your child about it, you can take alternative approaches. For example, you can decrease his or her allowance so he or she will be less likely to spend money on alcohol. It’s another story if your teen has a job, but sooner or later responsibility will probably catch up with his or her drinking habits.


If you are worried that your child’s alcohol problem is more serious and won’t be eliminated by taking the necessary precautions and steps any parent should, it may be a good idea to consult with your family doctor. See if this registered health practitioner can have “the talk” with your kid about alcohol use. It’s something your kid surely learned at school, but peer pressure sometimes tops what the teachers say. However, if your family doctor talks to him or her, this is a great way to get a feel for what your child is going through without having to address the issue yourself. If your teen trusts the doctor, he or she will more likely say what is on his or her mind, and from there, you’ll be able to consult with the doctor yourself and determine the necessary approach to getting your child help. The doctor may recommend a therapist or psychologist if the issue is severe.

Another good idea is getting your child away from his or her friends or away from spending so much time alone—have him or her participate in more sports or other after-school activities aside from work that will tire him or her out to the point where drinking will just be an afterthought. Cater to your teen’s interests. If he likes jogging, join him for a jog. If she’s into health eating, you can work alcohol into that conversation and mention how it’s not good for her body; perhaps introduce her to a couple books that subtly address the subject. Once your teen is enjoying life, it’s easier to get him or her to realize that there is so much more out there than alcohol.

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