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Strategies for Reducing Adolescent Alcohol Use

Fortunately, there are many steps parents and other adults can take to promote healthy behavior and discourage alcohol use among adolescents. 

Infographic of strategies for parents regarding children using alcohol

Talk with adolescents. When parents talk, adolescents listen. Four out of five teens feel that parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol.1

  • Talk early and often with children and adolescents about your—and their—concerns regarding alcohol. Short, frequent talks are more effective than one “big talk.”
  • Clearly communicate your opinions and expectations. Establish rules early and be consistent in enforcing them. 
  • Ask about friends’ attitudes, and find out if your adolescent is feeling pressure to drink. Discuss ways to resist peer pressure and say no to alcohol.
  • Keep communication open. As adolescents grow up, they will face new situations and challenges. Maintain an ongoing conversation and discuss changes as they happen.

Talk with other parents. If parents share information and work together, they can create an environment that discourages adolescent alcohol use community-wide.   

  • Talk with other parents to learn about their attitudes toward underage drinking, and the rules they enforce in their homes.
  • Learn about your state’s laws. “Furnishing” laws prohibit offering alcohol to minors, and “social host” laws can hold individuals responsible for underage drinking on their property, whether or not they provided the alcohol. Discuss these laws with other parents, and work together to supervise adolescent events, and keep them alcohol-free. 
  • Collaborate with other parents to monitor where adolescents are and what they are doing. Three out of four teens report using alcohol in groups; working with other adults to track their activities can discourage drinking.2
  • Cooperate with other parents to support school and community prevention efforts. Adolescent drinking isn’t isolated to one person or family, and preventing it requires collaboration from adults throughout the community.

Model responsible behavior. Leading by example is an important part of influencing adolescent attitudes toward alcohol. 

  • Limit how much and how often you drink.
  • Never drive after drinking.
  • Show that adults can enjoy themselves without alcohol.
  • Always offer nonalcoholic drink options when you entertain.
  • Don’t glorify people who drink to excess.

Be involved in your adolescent’s life. Adolescents are less likely to drink when their parents are actively involved in their lives and provide a balance of discipline and support. Stay connected to your adolescent and let them know—through your example, conversations, and rules—how important it is to you that they do not use alcohol.


1 Jackson, C. (2002). Perceived legitimacy of parental authority and tobacco and alcohol use during early adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31(5), 425–432. Retrieved from https://bha.health.maryland.gov/MSPF/Documents/Jackson_article_Parentl_authority.pdf.

2 Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. (2017). Underage drinking. Retrieved from https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking-topic.

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on March 29, 2019