Home page Psychology blog Child and Adolescent Behavior Bad Habits Prevention Child Alcoholism: How To Prevent a Disaster And Save Your Child

Child Alcoholism: How To Prevent a Disaster And Save Your Child

21.05.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“Recently my son came home drunk for the first time ever. Of course, I expected that it would happen sooner or later, but I never thought it would be that early – he is only thirteen. I tried to deal with it in a sensible manner: didn’t berate him right away, gave water and put him to bed; we spoke about it only in the morning. The situation was standard: they celebrated a friend’s birthday, boy’s parents offered a bottle of wine and due to inexperience they went over the top. However, the thing is that a 13 – 15 year old teenager drinking is normal in that family. My son’s friends also can’t be considered paragons of virtue, some even smoke. I don’t want to expressively forbid him anything; I just explained the consequences of teenage alcoholism to him and how to drink without getting drunk. But I am afraid of the fact that drinking could turn into a habit and at such a young age it is very dangerous. I just want to protect my son from possible future addiction”.

–    Julia, mother of Vitaly, 13

Whether we want it or not, alcohol now is an integral part of our life. And no matter how parents may wish to save their child from addictions, sooner or later he/she will have to face a choice: to drink or not to drink. Unfortunately, the problem of teenage alcoholism in Russia is extremely severe. According to the statistics from the Ministry of health, the number of teenagers drinking alcohol in the Russian Federation decreases. But only three years ago 55 thousands of minors were caught drinking alcohol in public places. [1] And these are only recorded cases. The parental task in this situation is to prevent the child from developing an addiction.

In this article we will talk about causes of teenage alcoholism, about consequences of alcohol consumption by a child, as well as about how to protect children from dangerous addiction or find a solution if it already has been developed.

In addition, we recommend reading the article about what to do if your child smokes: many causes of teenage alcoholism are similar to those of smoking including the methods of fighting against the bad habits.


  1. Causes of child and teenage alcoholism
  2. Signs of alcohol addiction
  3. Stages of addiction development
  4. Consequences of child and teenage alcoholism 
  5. Child and teenage alcoholism preventive measures: averting disaster
  6. Teenager drinks alcohol: what to do?

Causes of child and teenage alcoholism

teenage alcohol problem

Each and every child puts great importance on his or her environment: family, friends, classmates. Children and teenagers will be influenced by this environment to some extent. And most often children start drinking exactly because people significant to them do it. Primarily parents, of course. Parents may try to guard their children from a bad company, but if father or mother has a habit of “relaxing” with a bottle of beer every evening or drinking a glass of wine on Fridays, a child will accept this model of behavior as normal. If every family celebration includes alcohol, it’s only logical that it will become a symbol of fun and companionship for a child. That’s why the roots of teenage alcoholism usually can be found in the family and inner circle.

We will help you to give up alcohol

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

The following reasons of child and teenage alcoholism can be distinguished among the other common ones:

  • curiosity: a desire to understand why everybody around drinks alcohol;
  • desire to feel like an adult;
  • desire to assert oneself, to be welcome in the company of peers;
  • boredom, too much free time;
  • desire to relax, relieve stress or gain courage before an important event (for example, meeting a girl);
  • constant conflicts with others, difficulties with social adaptation;
  • sense of isolation, being not understood by loved ones;
  • problems in the family, unfavorable environment;
  • teenage protest, rebellion against the rules set by parents;
  • inferiority complex;
  • genetic predisposition to addictions.
  • imitation of idols or reputable individuals (bloggers, singers, TV presenters, etc.).

Signs of alcohol addiction

Signs which indicate that the child drinks alcohol manifest very quickly at an early age. Teenager’s addiction develops faster than adult’s; therefore it can be identified at the initial stage. Symptoms of alcoholism can be divided into two groups: behavioral and physical. [2]

Behavioral signs

In case of changes in behavior, it is necessary to consider that they may as well be symptoms of other medical problems, for example depression or a strong fatigue. Therefore they need to be considered in conjunction with the physical ones. However, alcohol addiction often manifests itself in the following symptoms: 

  • loss of interest in previous hobbies, a sharp decline in performance;
  • increased aggression, frequent conflicts in the family and at school;
  • frequent mood swings: from euphoria to causeless anger;
  • strongly pronounced apathy;
  • disregard of own appearance and hygiene;
  • an abrupt change in the circle of friends;
  • increased secrecy, aggression in response to simple questions (for example, “where have you been?”);
  • lack of sociability, secrecy, frequent leaving home;
  • problems with memory, attention, punctuality;
  • problems with sleep and appetite;
  • other unexplained changes in mood and behavior that have not been observed before.

Physical signs

Alcoholic dependency has specific symptoms which are hard to mix up with anything else. If you have suspicions that your child became addicted to alcohol, note his/her health and physical condition. These signs will warn you:

  • smell of alcohol, including from clothes;
  • slurred speech;
  • abrupt weight change – a gain or a loss;
  • slowed reflexes;
  • problems with coordination and gait;
  • glassy, bleary eyes;
  • redness on the face;
  • noticeable deterioration of skin and hair condition;
  • constant complaints about feeling ill, headache, fatigue.

Stages of addiction development

Alcoholism in childhood develops stage by stage, the same as in adult age, although the entire process goes much faster. It is possible to divide the addiction development into several stages:

  1. The initial stage is adaptation of the body to alcohol. The child rarely drinks alcohol, but is already getting used to the new taste and new sensations. Usually this stage takes from three to six months.
  2. The next stage lasts about one year, and at this time the child consumes alcohol on a regular basis. At this point ethanol already affects behavior and general condition.
  3. Mental dependence develops. This is the initial stage of alcoholism. The child loses control over the amount of alcoholic drinks he/she consumes and initiates drinking of alcohol himself/herself. At this stage, the teenager may already go through bouts of heavy drinking. The body’s tolerance to ethanol grows, demanding higher and higher doses. This period can last for several months.
  4. The fourth stage is the chronic stage of the disease. It is expressed by the appearance of a withdrawal syndrome after large doses of alcohol.
  5. At the fifth stage, addiction is finally formed and becomes physical. It manifests the same way as in adults. This stage is marked by complete degradation, mental instability, asocial behavior, emotional disturbance.

In general, child and teenage alcoholism forms within three to four years, and physical dependence develops in two years at the average. The most effective way is to start treatment of the disease at the first or second stage, in the first year of the development of addiction. [3]

That’s why it is so important to notice the problem in time and find a suitable treatment, for example, to persuade the child to take a course of behavior modification using the 7Spsy techniques.

Consequences of child and teenage alcoholism

Obviously the impact of alcohol on a child will be much stronger than on an adult, because children’s bodies have not completely grown yet and can be very fragile. The harm that alcohol does at an early age can become irreparable. Alcohol disturbs the function of the digestive tract, liver, cardio-vascular system, reproductive system and immunity as a whole. But the most dangerous are, of course, disorders of the brain and central nervous system. [4] These are the consequences for children who consume alcohol at various ages: [5]

Child’s ageAlcohol impact
4-5Acquired dementia, undeveloped speech, poor movement coordination, lack of hygiene, difficulties with self-care
6-7Lack of goals, activities are focused only on the process rather than the outcome, the only meaning in life left is the search for entertainment
7-11Emotional disturbance: frequent nervous breakdowns, instability, difficulties with socialization, lack of empathy, inability to love and form friendships
12-14Stunted mental development, impaired intellect and cogitation 
16-17Unreasonable self-esteem, black-and-white thinking, inability to communicate.

In general, the effect of alcohol in childhood and teenage leads to identity not being properly developed and irreversible changes occurring in the body.

Drinking also affects a person’s appearance. Children drinking alcohol often look younger than their real age. Their skin becomes unnaturally pale or grey, their eyes and hair become dull. The overall appearance becomes unhealthy.

Child and teenage alcoholism preventive measures: preventing a disaster

what to do if the child drinks

The basis for the prevention of any deviant behavior in children and adolescents lies in establishing positive and trusting relationships in the family, as well as in the right role model by parents. We will share with you the advice of psychologists on how to communicate with the child to prevent addiction to alcohol.

Do not forget about your own behavior

It is necessary to train not only the child’s mentality but your own as well. After all, children eventually adopt the attitudes that were the norm in the family. If you yourself do not drink alcohol and take care of your health, play sports, develop yourself creatively, the child is more likely to choose a healthy lifestyle and follow the hobbies – in which case drinking would probably be of little interest to him/her.

Express your love to the child more often

Parental love, acceptance and sincere attention are important for everyone – both children and teenagers. Express your unconditional love more often, let the child know that you love him/her regardless of school marks and household duties. Talk to your child not about academic performance or behavior, but about his/her interests, dreams, friends, views of life. Support your child in his/her endeavors and hobbies. It doesn’t matter which club or activity he/she chooses. What matters is that it should be a favorite hobby.

Make the child understand that you can be trusted and he/she would be unlikely to seek refuge in alcohol.

Tell about the dangers of alcohol for children

And do it as soon as possible. For example, if you are watching a movie together that features excessive alcohol consumption, you can start by talking about such behavior. Why do teenagers smoke and drink? Often to make themselves look more mature. Explain that alcohol is not a sign of adulthood; rather the opposite, it can make person powerless and unstable. If you drink champagne during holiday celebrations, explain why you are doing this: that it is a tradition that people follow more out of a habit and not a necessity at all. You can share your own experiences of how you once “overdosed” with alcohol in your youth and how bad it was: it will inspire more trust and respect from your child.

Control the environment around the child

It is important to always be aware of your child’s life and to know who his/her friends and classmates are or if he/she has any serious conflicts with teachers or classmates which might spark off an addiction. This may require making contact with the tutor and parents of your child’s friends. Any changes in his/her social circle are worth taking note of. Also, check to see if there are any teenage alcohol prevention programs in school.

However, the control must be unobtrusive; otherwise it can provoke the “forbidden fruit” effect instead. For example, you should probably keep an eye on those among your child’s social circle who you don’t really like, but avoid expressively forbidding the contact without a good reason. Otherwise, the child may rebel, clam up or start lying. Restoring your relationship in this case will be difficult.

It is best to establish a climate of confidence where the child can share any experiences with you and receive support rather than condemnation. This is a work that requires attention and patience on your part.

If the situation has already deteriorated into constant clashes, consider taking a behavior modification course to help you take a fresh look at the situation.

We will help you to give up alcohol

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

Teenager drinks alcohol: what to do?

But what if your child or teenager has already taken up the habit of drinking alcohol? The most important thing in this case is to prevent addiction from developing. In addition, you need to not only wean your child off alcohol, but also to instill a negative attitude towards this habit to prevent future problems.

This is the goal of the 7Spsy behavior modification technique.  It is a patented method of behavioral psychology, based on the theories of famous psychologists I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky. Using this method helps identify negative mindsets that can lead to forming the bad habit, and to change them into positive ones. This ensures that the child learns a healthy model of behavior in 2-6 weeks.

Treatment using the 7Spsy behavior modification technique is carried out remotely and can be used for children over 7 years old. It starts with diagnosing the problem. You and your child will be supported throughout the course by a professional psychologist, who you can contact via online chat, e-mail or phone.

You can start at any time: either at the first stage, when the child has just started to get acquainted with alcohol, or if the addiction has already become the norm. As a result, the child will be freed from dangerous addiction and will no longer look for solutions to his/her problems in alcohol.


  1. V. Vashchenko, «Deti stali menshe pit» (https://www.gazeta.ru/social/2017/07/10/10780976.shtml)
  2. A. A. Shchankin, «Osobennosti vysshej nervnoj deyatel’nosti i psihicheskoe zdorov’e detej»
  3. Detskij alkogolizm: kak nachinaetsya i chem mozhet zakonchitsya (https://medportal.ru/enc/narcology/reading/44)
  4. Anna Zajkina, «Podrostkovyj alkogolizm: kto vinovat?» (http://psi-doctor.ru/zavisimosti/alkogolizm-podrostkov.html)