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Recently we found out that our 14 year old son has been sneaking alcohol in our home. My husband and I are having marital problems. I know 14 year olds have been known to experiment, but my concern is that he may be turning to alcohol as a stress reliever to deaden stress he may feel within our home. How do we approach this topic?


Janet Price Replied: It is a very difficult and stressful time for everyone when parents are struggling. You are to be commended for being able to notice your son's struggles while also dealing with your own. To approach this topic with your son, you can begin with making, or re-stating, the rule in your house about drinking. If it is possible for you to get rid of all alcohol from your house during this stressful time, do so. It can be helpful to remove the temptation that easy access to alcohol provides. At a time like this keeping the lines of communication open between you and your son is critical. Talk with him about his experimentation with alcohol. Share your fears and concerns, both from a legal (he is under-age) and family perspective. Try to keep the conversation away from accusations or ultimatums. Keep the focus from your end on trying to learn and understand where your son is coming from, as much as possible. Often adolescents are struggling, even in the most stable home environments, to develop their identity and self-awareness... major internal work! They need our understanding, love, and structure/ boundaries. If your son's behavior deteriorates, seeking counseling for him, you and your husband, and/or family therapy can be very helpful in encouraging dialougue and assesing how best to support your son during this difficult time in his life. With your love and support he will get to the other side of this difficult time.
Posted On 2008-05-09 16:51:12
Sharon Buchalter Replied: The most important place to start in a situation like this is with open communication. You and your husband should sit down with your son, as a united front, saying that both of you have noticed that he may have been experimenting with alcohol. Tell him calmly that you would like to discuss ways you think you and your husband can help to discontinue his ongoing use of alcohol. Once you get a response, if your son does admit it, come up with ways that he can curtail this behavior. Recruit his help in coming up with solutions. It is not uncommon for 14 year olds to be curious about alcohol, and to want to experiment with it. It is always better to invite your teenager to take a sip of a drink in front of family members; this will help to give him a chance to try it under a controlled setting, rather than drinking outside with his friends, or behind your back. If, however, you suspect his drinking is more than on a trial basis, and feel it may be used to combat stress, then you must curtail all arguments between you and your spouse when your son is at home. It is never good to argue in front of your children. Children and teenagers may think they are the root of the argument or may feel helpless in the situation. When you bring up the subject initially, you should ask your son how he has been feeling lately; tell him you are concerned about his feelings and want to do whatever it takes to help him. If he still appears guarded, but you suspect the drinking is continuing, please seek professional help. You can contact the American Psychological Association to find a referral in your area. You and your spouse may also benefit from counseling, to help reduce the marital discord and overall family stress.
Posted On 2008-02-05 20:58:29
Rosalind Sedacca Replied: When you are having marital problems your children inevitably pick up on it and are affected. Children - even teens - have great difficulty handling the confusing emotions that arise when their parents are in conflict. They may feel guilt and blame themselves, feel angry at you both, resent the tension, side with one parent, feel sad or depressed and overwhelmed with confusion as to what to do about it all. Alcohol use and other acting out behaviors come as no surprise especially when parents are so involved in their own dramas that they don't have time for full attention to their children's emotional needs. I am not an expert on teens and alcohol but I do strongly suggest you seek professional counsel for advice. This may include marital therapy for you and your husband as well as counseling for your son, to give him an outlet to express his pent-up emotions. Tackling this on your own may be far too complicated for you achieve results at this point. Take advantage of professional guidance and you will all have a better handle on how to take your entire family to new levels of peace and harmony. And if a divorce is in your future, please make it a child-centered divorce in which you put your son's needs first before making any divorce-related decisions.
Posted On 2008-01-30 09:56:19
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