Your teens are always at risk for underage drinking and there are countless opportunities for them to test the limits. That's their job as teenagers. Our job as parents is to make the limits clear and monitor them - where they go, what they do, how they act and more. This kind of monitoring is not a violation of trust - rather it should be a regular and expected part of parenting throughout the pre-teen and teen years.
Many parents told us that they would do more to keep their teens from underage drinking - if only they knew what to do. Other parents felt that they had already done all that they could, and were surprised to learn that they could do more.
Your teen expects you to keep them from drinking. It is okay to monitor what they do. We've tried to make it easier - for helpful information and tips on what you can do to prevent underage drinking, see Find Out More, Do More - 5 TIPS to Prevent Underage Drinking.
Parental monitoring tips are also available in Spanish and Somali.
Tip 1 Limit Access
If you have alcohol in your home, keep track of it - know what and how much you have, and keep it where it is not accessible to teens.
Thank store clerks when you see them card someone who is buying alcohol
Alert the police if you have information about where/how teens are getting alcohol in your community.
Tip 2 Network
Get to know your teens' friends.
Get to know the parents of your teens' friends. Know their rules so you don't have to just accept the argument "everybody else is allowed to..."
Let the parents of your teens friends know your rules, and where you stand on underage alcohol use - no furnishing, ever.
Tip 3 Reinforce and Enforce
Reinforce the rules and consequences of underage drinking before your teen goes out.
Frequently explain the reasons behind the rules so your teen understands the rules are a protective measure, not just a restriction on their freedom.
Enforce your rules consistently. Don't look the other way if your teen violates the rules - they need to know that you are serious about the rules and that you will hold them accountable for violating them.
Tip 4 Check In Often
Before your teen goes to a party or out with friends, ask if adults will be present and if alcohol will be present.
Ask your teen to call you from the party or gathering; if you have caller ID, you can ask them to use a landline, not a cell phone so that you can tell where they actually are when they call.
Trust but verify - check in with other parents about your teens' activities or drop by once in a while where your teen tells you they will be.
Tip 5 Be Up and Be Ready
Wait up, or set the alarm for curfew time - talk with your teen about their night.
When your teen arrives home, look for signs of use. Teens who believe their parents would catch them are less likely to drink.
Be prepared in advance for what you would do the FIRST time you discover that your teen has been drinking. Think ahead of time about how you want to react, who you would talk to, how you would enforce the consequences.
Adapted by 21 Reasons from the Maine Office of Substance Abuse’s 5 Parental Monitoring Tips,
in collaboration with Minority Health Program of the City of Portland Public Health and Human Services.
*You will need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view PDF documents. These are available in printed format upon request at TSUP.DHHS@maine.gov