"It's not my alcohol, Mom. I'm just keeping it for a friend."
As a counselor who has worked with teenagers for more than 20 years, let me tell you the truth: Those words aren't it. Teenagers can come up with a million excuses for whose alcohol you've just discovered in their room and why they have it. When it's your child, you'd much rather believer a lie than the painful truth that your child has been drinking.
The lies didn't start with the cover-up either. They started at the beginning: the very first time your child purchased alcohol from an older high school student or even drank the first sip at a party. As alcohol experimentation gets heavier, so does the lying. They're crafty, these teenagers. A group of high school students told me just last week that there are now bras made with special pouches to hold alcohol. There are even fake tampons that are really just very small flasks! They carry it in water bottles and disguise it in antibacterial hand gel containers. There's no shortage of ways teenagers using alcohol or drugs can pull the wool over their parents' eyes.
Three critical factors
At our counseling ministry, we tell parents often that there are three reasons teens may choose not to experiment with drugs and alcohol:
They have their own sense of faith that drives them to make good choices.
They have a group of friends who are making good choices and applying positive peer pressure.
They're terrified of being caught and punished by their parents.
As a parent of a teen, you want to do what you can to have all three principles in place. Encourage your adolescent to participate in a small group where he can be influenced by peers and grow in his own relationship with Jesus. As the teenagers around him start to drink or use drugs, clearly communicate ahead of time the consequences for making poor choices. Follow through if your child violates the boundaries. If your response is strong and communication is open within your family, you can effectively stop the experimentation. But if it isn't stopped? The experimentation can accelerate into a problem . . . and quickly.
Addiction, secrecy, and shame
With adult children, it's not quite so simple. You can't keep an eye on your college-aged son. You can't choose a small group for your 20-something daughter to share and learn about Jesus. You can help your children find a church, but you have no way to make sure their cars actually drive to it on a Wednesday night rather than to the nearest liquor store.