A parenting expert offers tips for tough conversations about underage drinking with your teen, especially during prom season.
underage drinking at house party
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Underage drinking may be illegal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still prevalent. According to a 2015 study of high schoolers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a one-month period, 33 percent of the kids said they had had a drink; 18 percent admitted to binge drinking; 8 percent got behind the wheel after imbibing; and 20 percent rode along with a friend who had tossed back a few.

Pretty scary. Which is why, with prom season upon us, certified parent coach MJ Corcoran has partnered with Anheuser-Busch to create Family Talk About Drinking, a program that helps parents talk to their kids about alcohol.

Underage drinking is against the law, this is serious,” Corcoran explained to Parents.com. “As parents, it is our job to ask questions and get information. Be approachable and encourage a two-way conversation where your teens are free to share their thoughts and concerns. Asking open-ended questions is a great way to foster conversation and build trust.”

Makes sense. But what if, say, your teen wants to go to a post-prom party where you have a sneaking suspicion there will be alcohol? Do you let him attend and hope for the best? Or do you dig in your heels and forbid him from going?

According to Corcoran, that decision should be made based on the information you get from your child and your resulting level of trust.

“If you don’t trust the situation, then it is important you don’t put your child in that situation,” she explained to us. “One example is if you find out the parents are not going to be home.”

Even if you do trust the situation and decide to let your teen hit up an after-party, Corcoran suggests letting your child know you will be available if things change and she wants to call you or suddenly needs a ride home.

Have a phrase or practice a statement that signals they are uncomfortable at the party,” she offers. “Practice ways of saying no, and reassure your child of his or her capabilities.”

Sure, these can be tough conversations to have. But at the end of the day, when it comes to underage drinking, Corcoran says the best thing you can do as a parent is to be aware of what is going on in your child’s life.

“Get to know their friends, stay connected, take advantage of time together, have fun, and expect more,” she says. “And above all, don’t make exceptions and break the rules for special occasions.”

Visit FamilyTalkAboutDrinking.com to access resources, including a parents’ guide, videos, and more, that will help begin and guide discussions with your children about making smart choices. And then join the conversation by following ABFamilyTalk on Facebook and YouTube.

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of two who writes about parenting and pop culture. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and then follow her on  Instagram and  Twitter.