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Thirteen-Year-Old Caught Drinking

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: Apparently, my 13-year-old daughter took a wine cooler from our home to a friend's house and she and two friends drank it. One of the friend's fathers found it. He has forbidden the girls from seeing each other (we live in the same neighborhood) and is quite angry. My husband and I are in shock. We never thought a 13-year-old would experiment with alcohol. What should we do? I believe education is critical. The father of the friend called back and said that his 16-year-old daughter claims our daughter has brought alcohol over in the past. I need help to handle this issue.

A: Adolescence is the age at which nearly all youth may experiment with alcohol, drugs, sex -- anything that pushes the boundaries -- so parents need to be aware and not shocked. Much experimentation begins as early as 10 or 11 years of age.

Education is critical, but more critical is talking with your daughter -- real communication. Let her talk. Don't preach. What does she say? Listen, pay attention to what she is saying. Accept it without judgment. I would suggest that you then have a drug and alcohol assessment done on her. The school can help you set one up. Let her know that you are doing this to rule out the possibility of abuse and that, if there is a problem, she can receive the help she needs. Follow the assessor's recommendations.

If your daughter did take the wine over, if she does have a problem, continue to love and respect her and keep in mind that she is not her behavior. It is her behavior that you want changed and she is and always will be your daughter.

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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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