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When Your Child Drinks Alcohol

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: I just found out that my 11-year-old daughter had a few sips of wine while at her friend's house. I don't want to overreact, but I believe that I need to give her some consequences for this behavior. The ironic thing is that they just graduated from the DARE program in our area, which teaches them about drugs and alcohol and how to say no. I am afraid to tell her father about this because I know he will overreact and ground her for the summer and I believe that this may just make matters worse. She gets good grades in school and is involved in other activities as well. Do I have a reason for concern at this point or is it just "kid stuff" and something I should let go?

A: You are right in not wanting to overreact, but what happened does need to be talked about among all of you. She has done the typical teen experimenting, even though she knows all the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Talk with her father first and let the two of you decide on possible consequences (not grounding for the whole summer). Probably just having you find out is going to be consequence enough! Then talk with your daughter. Ask her what it was like to drink the wine; tell her that you are glad she didn't drink a lot. Ask her what she thinks the consequences should be -- don't let her get too tough on herself, either. Most of all, encourage her to be cautious and to think about the things she has learned in DARE. Encourage her to keep the lines of communication open.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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