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Teen Came Home Drunk

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: The other night my daughter came home quite drunk. She is a good student and I've never had a problem like this before.

My husband and I don't know what to do about this. She was quite upset and promised she would "never do it again." I told her that it was all right, and that it was okay to make mistakes while growing up, but you must learn from them. I hope I didn't act too calm about it. I told her she can't go out with those friends anymore. What can I say or do to stress that drinking and drugs will hurt her? I know that teenagers go through this experimental stage, but I also know that teen drinking and driving is one of the leading causes of death for that age group.

A: I can understand the worry, disappointment, and fear this incident has caused you and your husband. She clearly has already been told your family's values regarding underage drinking and all the health, safety, and legal consequences that accompany it. She made a mistake and no one was hurt because of it, thank goodness. She has endured the shame of appearing drunk before you under rather embarrassing conditions. She has promised you this will not happen again. I'm sure you have told her that if she is ever in trouble with alcohol or drugs that she can call you and you will come get her -- no grounding, no guilt trip, no humiliating lectures.

I'd like to see if you folks and she could have a calm open-minded discussion about how she believes she made such a poor choice. If she believes your desire is to understand why she made this choice, this will keep the all-important connection with her open. If you want to punish her and let her know she has let you down, then you will shut off that connection. As opposed to seeing this as a tragedy, I'd look upon it as an opportunity to further bond with your daughter, showing her your belief in her goodness and your forgiveness for her 14-year-old mistake. Oftentimes it's how we treat our kids during times like these that make the most impact on them. When everything is going along just fine, we're really not tested. Here's an opportunity to teach her that your belief in and care about her is stronger and more important than your present disappointment in her poor choices.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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