New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.2

Chances are your teen’s friends are pretty important to them (Understatement of the year?).

As kids grow into teenagers, friendships become increasingly vital, and all they to want to do is hang out with their buddies. Not to mention, the more they spend time with their friends, the less they seem to want to do so with you.

It can be tough as a parent to let go. It can be even tougher when you think about the tremendous impact these peers have on your kid’s attitudes, behavior, and beliefs.

Are they a kind-hearted group of pals? Do they respect adults and have good values? Will they encourage my teen to drink or take drugs? How can I make sure my child makes good choices when she is with her friends?

There are several key strategies to implement to best monitor and interact with your teen’s friendships. In our previous article, we discussed the importance of early steps like personally getting to know friends, exchanging phone numbers with both friends and their parents, and helping friends in times of need even when your child is not directly involved.

While these tips will all help build a successful bond with these pals—thereby strengthening your relationship with your teen as well—and help avert potentially dangerous situations, there is more you can do to keep your teen safe, having fun, and out of trouble.

Even if that means keeping her safe from certain “friends” and their influence.

As your teen starts spending more and more time out of the house with her friends, it is important to maintain a balance between overseeing safety and allowing autonomy. Until circumstances require otherwise, find that effective middle ground between overbearingly cautious and ignorantly laissez-faire.

Always be aware of your kid’s general plans when she is out—where she’ll be, what time she’ll be home. Know who she’s with, especially if it includes new friends who you have not been well acquainted with yet.

As we’ve recommended before, a great strategy to promote good behavior in teens is to give them the opportunity to gain a little bit more freedom by demonstrating responsibility. One approach is to allow your teen to alter his plans while he is out so long as he calls or texts to notify you first. For example, perhaps he and his group suddenly decide to go roller skating after their initial dinner plans, which will keep him out later than he originally thought.

Ultimately, it is your decision and you can always say no—simply telling you what’s going on doesn’t give your teen unbridled free reign—but generally permit these new plans. For most teenagers, if you show that you trust and respect them, they’ll be significantly more likely to want to uphold that trust by making good choices.

[The Edge of Seventeen Mom Texting Daughter clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsLO7CHInXM&t=24s]

Should your teen demonstrate that she can’t handle this freedom or takes advantage of it, explain to her that she is not ready and revert to a more rigid system. Similarly, if you have suspicions that your teen is not is telling the truth about her plans but don’t have concrete evidence or are wary of a certain friend that was mentioned, go check out the scene for yourself.

Did your teen say she’s spending the night at a friend’s house? Drive by on your own to see if her car is there. Is she going with a group to the movies? You might as well catch a flick at a similar time and check if you see them in the lobby.

This isn’t the time to bust out your spy moves or wear a disguise. Don’t suddenly jump behind a bush to avoid being seen or pretend you totally forgot she and her friends were planning to be there if they come to talk to you.

Be casual. Act like—or better yet, actually have—errands or other business in the area and are not purely there to check up on them. Teenagers will not respond well if you seem like you do not trust them, especially when you claimed to trust them previously.

What about those friends of your teen that you just don’t care for (whether you simply aren’t fond of their personalities or are legitimately worried about their influence on your child)? How should you handle those cases?

First, still behave toward these friends in person the same as you would any other. Treat them kindly and talk to them when you have a chance. Even if they are your complete opposite and you cannot fathom what your teen sees in them, try to find just one thing you have in common.

Be extremely careful in openly criticizing friends or labeling them a “bad kid,” which can be one of the quickest ways to infuriate your teen. And never outright say you don’t like one of them.

Many teenagers are very protective of their friends, and an attack on a buddy is viewed as an attack on themselves. Not only that, but your teen will likely interpret your comments as a condemnation of his social skills, of his judge of character and ability to distinguish and attract quality people. Conversely, it might cause him to doubt you and think you unfairly judgmental.

However, there may be kids who are legitimately negative influences upon your child’s life, and it would be best if your teen spent less time with these individuals. They might encourage illegal and/or unsafe behavior, or perhaps they emotionally harm your teen, taking advantage of him or lowering his self-esteem. You can’t stand idly by but must manage the situation deftly so that you do not alienate your teen in the process.

First of all, banning a friendship or forbidding your teen from seeing his pal(s) is risky and should only be considered in circumstances that truly endanger the physical safety or emotional well-being of your child. More than likely, this action will infuriate your kid and cause him to seek out these friends more often due to rebellious spite or fear of losing them.

Instead, adopt the following strategies, which together should limit or cease a bad friend’s power over your child. The first is to focus on your teen and her behavior, regardless of a friend’s involvement.

Talk to her about her actions that you disapprove of and clearly establish and enact consequences when your expectations are not met. Eventually—perhaps subconsciously—an equation will take root in her head:

This negative reinforcement will lead her to spend less time with that friend or greatly alter her behavior when with him.

The second approach more directly addresses an unfavorable friend but still without “attacking” him in the eyes of your teen. More so, the goal is to have your kid conclude on her own that said person is not a good presence in her life.

Have a conversation with your teen about friendship, asking her what she thinks makes someone a good and bad friend. Share your own opinions on these categories as well. She’ll likely reference her own experience regarding the matter, but if not, ask your kid what friends of hers exemplify these qualities.

Do certain buddies consistently live up to her and/or your characterization of a good friend? Are there those who do not meet these expectations and do or say things that place them on the negative side?

Your teen may come to some startling revelations about a friend or two when she takes the time to truly think about it, especially if those pals fail her personal definition of a good friend.

When you do need to discuss a particular friend, subtly reveal your concerns while figuring out how your teen feels about that individual. Acknowledge that you might not know the whole story.

Ask what your kid sees in a certain pal about whom you are skeptical. Say something along the lines of, “Hey, it seems like Chris gets in trouble a lot and sometimes bosses you around. Help me understand: What do you see in him?”

Maybe you’ll learn about a side of Chris not obvious when he’s in your company, or that he is currently going through a family crisis or other issue which is affecting his behavior.

Conversely, your teen might struggle to come up with an answer or only respond with something incredibly minimal like “he’s funny.” In the latter case, press on: “Okay, that’s great, but is there more to it than that? Is he _____ (kind, trustworthy, does he always have your back, etc.—whatever important quality you want to address)?”

Don’t force your teen to give up that friend immediately or keep pushing him if he’s clearly getting frustrated with your questioning. What’s important is simply planting that little seed of concern.

It might not mean much right away, but even if teenagers won’t admit it or realize it themselves, their parents’ opinions matter a great deal, and your periodic comments will get your teen thinking. He will likely start noticing the aspects of his friend you addressed even though he never had before:

“Huh, Mom was right; Paul really doesn’t seem to value my opinion,” or Wow, I do end up in situations I’m uncomfortable in a lot when I hang with Sarah.”

With time and subtle encouragement, your teen will start to limit his time with that friend or gradually phase her out altogether.

At the end of the day, you must also remember that many friends will not easily be summed up as the perfect “good friend” who never gets in trouble or fights with your teen or as the trouble-making bully of a “bad friend” that needs to go. Teens are teens, people are people, and most will fall in the grey area in between.

Friends sometimes argue and hurt each other’s feelings. Good-hearted kids make mistakes and sometimes drink. It doesn’t mean they are automatically a horrendous presence in your teen’s life that must be removed.

Approach each incident individually at first but notice trends. Give second chances but trust your instincts. You’ll know in your gut when a friend is a little rough around the edges but alright at heart versus a truly negative influence.

Finally, remind your kid that her true friends will respect her choices and stand by her side even if they are different from their own, and she does not need to choose between drinking and having a social life. Teach your teen the skills to resist peer pressure and how to handle herself in a situation where drinking, drug use, or other risky behaviors are present.

Be available, be compassionate, be concerned and adamant when you need to be.

Be a confidant, be a source of guidance, be a parent.

It’s not always easy but if you keep this all in mind and your eyes open, you can navigate through the fascinating world of teenage friendships.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 1 of “New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones)”

Pictures From

Friends Walking Away: From Skinny Casual Lover at https://www.flickr.com/photos/136920307@N06/28884337216

Smoking Woman: From Valentin Ottone at https://www.flickr.com/photos/saneboy/3050003040

Teen Texting: From Carissa Rogers at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy/8466275231

Driving in Car: From Timo Newton-Syms at https://www.flickr.com/photos/timo_w2s/305245555

Disguised Dad: From Jeff Turner at https://www.flickr.com/photos/respres/2468996828

Smoking Teen Boy: From https://pixabay.com/p-484090/?no_redirect

Thought Bubble: Original image from https://pixabay.com/p-305444/?no_redirect. Text added by author.

Group of Friends: From David Amsler, www.flickr.com/photos/amslerpix

Teen Boy Sitting Outside: From https://pixabay.com/p-1098665/?no_redirect

Teen Girl Thinking: From Petr Kratochvil [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Line of Friends: From Vaibhav Sharan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/vibhu000/7279793602) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friends Looking Up: From hepingting (CB106492) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.1

Friends.

Pals. Buddies. Companions. Amigos. Besties and BFFs.

Whatever you call them, friends are one of the most important aspects of many people’s lives. They’re a source of fun, trust, and support, people to talk and listen to, and who can tremendously shape our beliefs, interests, and behaviors.

This is especially true for teenagers.

Teens are still developing mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially, still figuring out the world and their place in it. While parents typically remain the primary influence on their kid, the time adolescents spend with peers and the value they place in them grow substantially during the teenage years (who else are they going to send a texting rant to upon storming out of the room, after all?).

Because of the significant role friends play in teens’ lives, parents should always pay attention to with whom their child spends her time.

For although good behavior and attitudes can spread through a peer group, so too can unsafe or unhealthy actions like underage drinking, drug use, and more. Whole friend groups may turn to risky behaviors together as they get older, or these activities may be introduced by one or more individuals to the rest of the group that previously had no inclination toward them.

Sudden changes in friendships, in particular, might suggest substance abuse. Just as getting involved with alcohol or drugs often causes teens to lose interest in their hobbies, school, work, and family, they might also unexpectedly stop hanging out with their usual friends.

At the same time, teens may suddenly start hanging out with new people who share the same substance-using interests. These new friends might seem out-of-character for your teen to bond with and don’t seem to have much in common with your child otherwise.

Of course, we are dealing with teenagers here. Friendships do change, evolve, and sometimes end, with new relationships waiting to blossom right around the corner—especially in the teenage world of hormones and high school drama.

There are a thousand reasons why your teen might end a friendship or start a new one, and substance use is only one of them. Don’t automatically assume your teen is snorting coke just because she no longer rides bikes with Susie from 6th grade.

Instead, simply keep an eye on your teen’s friendships while looking out for other personality, behavior, or physical developments that signal possible drug use. Only when enough of these signs couple together should you seriously investigate the problem further and intervene if alcohol or drug use is occurring.

This article will cover how to best interact with your teen’s friends and approach and monitor his relationships, both new and old.

The first strategy is also the most obvious: Know who your kid’s friends are!

Ask your teen who he hangs out with. What are their names, what are they like? How did he meet them?

Then, at the first available opportunity you see these friends in real life, go over and introduce yourself. Shake hands. Even if it’s a pal your teen has had for a long time, whom you’ve kind of-sort of seen around the house for years but never formally met, make the next time you see her finally be that day.

Even better, take some time to talk to them. Figure out for yourself what the people who play such an important role in your teen’s life are like. Are they polite? Shy? Outgoing? Are they open to meeting and talking with you or counting down the seconds until you go away?

From that initial introduction on, try to chit chat for at least a little bit each time you see them. Ask about their hobbies, how school is going, if they have any fun vacations planned with their families—anything really, whatever topics that genuinely intrigue you, and help you get to know them as a person (this may also inform you more on what your teen is like, as friends often share interests and personality traits).

Over time, you’ll build your own sense of connection or relationship with each friend.

Try to be the parent your teen’s friends want to talk to. You hope your own child enjoys conversing with you and will seek you out for guidance, right? If you can act as this same source of help and advice for his buddies, that’s all the better.

Maybe they don’t have a strong relationship with their parents or another trusted adult in their lives that they can open up to or ask for help when they are embarrassed or afraid of getting in trouble. You can be that vital resource.

Offer to listen to thoughts, stories, and problems. Respond with understanding and honesty. Give advice if they seek it but also know that sometimes teenagers just need somebody to listen when they express themselves.

It is also a good idea early on to exchange phone numbers with your teen’s friends. That way you can still reach your kid despite her rushing out the door to meet a buddy, her phone down to 2% and dwindling fast. If ever for some reason your teen doesn’t or can’t respond to your calls or texts, you still have a way to make sure she is safe by communicating with her friends.

On the flip side, swapping contact information gives your teen and her friends another means to contact you. Perhaps your teen needs to update you on her plans while she is out, but her phone died, and she doesn’t know your number by heart (she should, of course, but when’s the last time a teenager memorized a number after plugging it into her contacts?). Now, however, because her friend also has your number, she can easily reach you.

In case of more dire situations, exchanging contact numbers is increasingly important. Say your teen binge drinks at a party and exhibits signs of possible alcohol poisoning, worrying his friends. Yet your teen refuses to call you for help or give up his phone for others to do so. Luckily, his buddies don’t need his phone to call you for help and explain what is going on (upon which you should tell them to call 911).

Friends might also reach out to you in situations that don’t even involve your teen, yet they require your help. One example is if a friend becomes intoxicated while out and cannot drive home. He thankfully recognizes that he should not get behind the wheel but is too scared or embarrassed to call his parents. Since you are a responsible adult he trusts (because you took the time to get to know him and build a relationship), he calls you for a ride.

Or perhaps he isn’t drunk but simply at a party or other environment he feels uncomfortable without a safe way to leave. In any case, you are able to remove the teen from a potentially dangerous situation, which could have jeopardized his safety or the safety of others. Even though your child might not be a part of the situation at all, helping your teen’s friend is the right, moral thing to do, and you should be proud that he admires you enough to reach out.

When you pick up your teen’s pal, you might feel angry and want to scold him, just as if it was your own kid. However, remember and implement our previous tips on picking up an inebriated teenager: Acknowledge you are grateful he asked for help and save the lecture or yelling. Your job is simply to get him home.

Remember that being the trusted, possibly even “cool” parent does not mean you are bound to secrecy regarding the situation. You are still an adult, after all, and must inform the friend’s parents of what happened. The friend might not have originally called his parents, but they need to know.

Certainly, you’ll have that chance when you knock on their door late at night carrying their drunken teen. If, however, you had to bring him to your home to stay with your teen for some reason—perhaps the parents are out of town—make sure to call them as soon as possible to let them know their child is safe and with you.

Give all the details you know about the situation and remind the parents that their kid made the smart choice of calling for help and that it is probably best to hold off on talking to their teen until he is sober.

Unsure of where your kid’s friend lives? Don’t know his parent’s phone numbers?

Of course, if the friend is coherent enough you can get this information from him, but he might not be if he is drunk or high.

And, sure, your teen may have swapped numbers with his folks (especially if they also read this article!), but maybe not. Or maybe your teen is at her grandparents’ house, which doesn’t receive much phone service, or is otherwise unreachable.

That’s why, with both your teen’s old pals and new, try to build some connection (or at least facial recognition) with her friend’s parents—ideally, before the friend is passed out in your passenger seat.

Just as you should meet your kid’s buddies, so too should you introduce yourself to parents at the first opportunity. Swap phone numbers. Small talk if there’s time.

Admittedly, a face to face meeting might be a tad difficult to come by once teenagers get their licenses and start driving themselves places, but try your best.

Perhaps make an excuse to drop off your teen at a friend’s house instead of her driving on her own one day. Or you can always take the direct approach and simply ask to meet a friend’s parents or invite the family over to dinner.

Getting to know friends’ parents will better keep teens of both families safe and show you even more what your teen’s pals are like. You might even make some friends yourself.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 where we will discuss interacting with friends you don’t like, ways to encourage your teen to end/limit a caustic friendship, knowing and checking up on your teen’s plans with friends, and more. 

Pictures From

Group of Girls: From db Photography | Demi-Brooke at https://www.flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/2577242406

Women Drinking: From https://pixabay.com/p-1173651/?no_redirect

Girls Smoking Pot in the Woods: From St. Gil, Marc, 1924-1992, Photographer (NARA record: 8464473) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaking Hands: From Lucas (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Teen and Man Shake Hands: From https://pixabay.com/en/men-shaking-hands-hands-shaking-950915/

Woman and Teen Talk Outside: By John Benson at www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson

Exchanging Numbers with Teen: From Dave Proffer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepphoto/3939213937

Passed Out Woman: From Newtown Graffiti at https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/7982820624

Talking on the Phone: From https://pixabay.com/p-1582238/?no_redirect

Getting into Car: From Lou at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfm49/1015256548

Women Talking: From https://pixabay.com/en/women-beautiful-talking-2079133/

Looking at a Map: From Victor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/v1ctor/4753184912

Adult Female Friends: From Lori at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolololori/2581438627

 

I Think My Teen is Using Drugs: 6 Essential Tips on How to Intervene (Pt.1)

It can be one of a parent’s worst fears, something you dread and hope never happens. You’ve discovered (or highly suspect) that your teen is using drugs and/or alcohol.

Maybe you’ve found a hidden stash or some drug paraphernalia or simply noticed a string of new and unusual behaviors and personality changes inconsistent with typical teenage development. Perhaps you’ve overheard your teen and her friends talking about “Texas Tea” or caught her high after a party.

The circumstances don’t really matter. What matters is what you do next.

You don’t want to push your teen away, yet you also need to steer him toward safer and healthier behavior. Knowing the right things to say and do—as well as what to not say and not do—will better ensure these outcomes, while still maintaining a positive relationship between you two.

Even with the best resources and help at your side, this process of confronting your teen and getting him to change his ways will probably be hard. It might be scary.

But it’s something you need to do.

Now stop, take a deep breath, and read our top six tips on what to do when your teen is using drugs. 

#1 Don’t Ignore the Problem

You might be thinking to yourself (perhaps in a voice eerily similar to your teen’s when she talks to you), “Well duh! [Cue eye roll]. Of course I wouldn’t ignore my teen drinking or using drugs.”

But how many times, in both real life and popular media, have you heard adults make excuse for teenagers such as “they’re just experimenting,” or “it is okay as long as they only drink at home,” etc.?

It’s not uncommon for parents to downplay their teen’s substance-using behavior. They may do this because they think the problem will go away on its own in time. Some may have dabbled in the same actions in their youth and suffered no long-term consequences and thus would feel hypocritical or that stepping in is not necessary.

Still others might choose to ignore the signs and refuse to act, because intervening admits the problem is real. Acknowledging your son or daughter abuses drugs can easily bring up feelings of guilt, shame, regret, anger, and more. Parents may fault themselves or each other and feel like failures. Some would rather live in denial.

But ignoring the issue, no matter the reason, only further puts your child at risk, as even minimal usage of drugs or alcohol can be highly dangerous.

Some substances, such as inhalants, can cause severe long-term damage or death upon first-time use. Moreover, alcohol and drugs play a significant role in all of the top three leading causes of teenage fatalities: Accidents (including auto crashes and drowning), suicide, and homicide. Anytime a teen is high or drunk, impaired judgment and motor skills leave them more susceptible to these dangers, as well as an increased risk of fighting, unsafe sex, risk-taking, and sexual assault.

Finally, dismissing your teen’s “experimentation,” hoping it will fade in time, risks that the drug use will only become more regular and detrimental. The younger people first begin to abuse substances, the more likely they are to develop a dependence or addiction that lasts throughout their life, because brains do not stop developing until the age of 25. No one knows how many hits or drinks it takes to trigger addiction and it is not the same for everyone; addictions can develop suddenly and unexpectedly, and once your brain is hooked it is never the same.

At this critical time, it is important not to blame yourself. This reaction is normal, but your focus should be on ways to move forward. Teens drink
and do drugs for a multitude of reasons, and you are far from the only parent dealing with this difficult issue. Playing the blame game and imagining “What If” scenarios about the past only distracts from finding solutions for your teen in the future.

#2 Be Prepared

When you discover that your child is abusing a substance, talking with him is one of the most important, effective, and certainly first steps you should take.

But don’t just rush in there half-cocked, guns blazing. With a situation this delicate and crucial, you need to step back and take the time to make a proper plan.

First and foremost, setting aside time to prepare allows you to reign in your initial, more volatile emotions. You shouldn’t approach your teen while blinded by anger, sadness, or the like, as it won’t do either of you any good. Reel in those intense feelings and do your best to remain level-headed. Taking preparation time will aid in that.

You may also want to mentally ready yourself for the trying tribulations ahead. Confronting drug or alcohol use can be an intense experience for you and your teen. Though you can never fully anticipate or prepare for the emotions you may undergo, prepping your mind and heart beforehand will keep you from becoming overwhelmed.

If applicable to your family situation, the next step is to ensure you and your spouse, partner, or other heads of the household devise and maintain a united front. Think, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

No strategy to solve your child’s substance abuse will work if one or both parents blame or contradict the other, fail or refuse to enforce established rules, or enable the teen’s behavior.

Teenagers will immediately recognize any division between the two of you, leaving them confused or ready to exploit these discrepancies. Instead, you must both be equally vigilant in your disapproval of and tactics against drinking and drug abuse.

Finally, you must plan for the actual conversation with your teen. Decide an appropriate time and location, a place where your teen will feel comfortable. Review what evidence you have of her drug use. Know what you want to say and what questions you will ask, as well as formulate responses for common questions that may be asked of you (more on these three points in the next section). All of this preparation will help keep the discussion focused and retain your authority during the conversation.

#3 The Talk Part 1: What to Say and Do

Now that you’ve sufficiently prepped, it is time to sit your teen down, address his alcohol or drug use, and outline what your expectations are in the future.

To get the most out of this time, limit distractions by putting away or turning off cell phones, televisions, laptops, and other electronics (I can hear your teen gasping in shock already). As previously stated, choose a place to talk where your teen feels at ease but make sure it has minimal distractions and is not in a public setting.

Also do not try to have a serious conversation with your child while she is drunk or high. For instance, should she come home late at night after party, clearly intoxicated, you may want to talk right then and there. But in this state your teen will be more prone to anger, sleepiness, and not remembering your conversation the next day, all of which will render your message ineffective.

Begin your talk by presenting evidence of your teen’s substance use so it does not seem like you are randomly accusing him. Share the signs you have noticed such as changes in behavior, personality, and friends, and bring in any confiscated drugs or paraphernalia. Teens will undoubtedly deny using drugs and say they have no idea what you are talking about, but that’s a lot harder to do when they are staring down a clearly-used pipe pulled from under their bed.

On the other hand, don’t assume you know everything and avoid direct accusations. Perhaps you misinterpreted the changes in her attitude, which are actually the result of a different issue like depression or puberty.

On the other, other hand—hang in there, this is a complicated process—teens will make up stories and try to wriggle out of admitting their actions. It’s up to your instincts, judgment, and knowledge of your child and the acquired evidence to discern fact from fiction.

Do not tolerate lies but reward honesty. Let your teen know you want to work together, and that telling the truth will make everything easier. You may want to give some sort of short-term immunity or lessened consequences for honesty or, at the very least, tell your teen you are proud of him for telling the truth.

As you continue, clearly define what actions you do and don’t approve. Teenagers often misunderstand or take advantage of grey areas, and you should not just assume they know your stance on every issue, even those as basic as not using alcohol and drugs.

Address why these risky behaviors worry you. Here you can reference some of the dangers of substance use, anything from drunk/drugged driving to the increased likelihood of violence and unsafe sex.

However, only mention a few of these potential consequences and stick to topics relatable to your teen. You don’t want to overload her or refer to dangers too long-term or otherwise obscure for her to care about.

And never, ever, ever start listing statistics. Teens will zone out faster than you can say, “half of all traffic fatalities among 18-24 year-olds are alcohol-related.”

Ask your teen questions to root out the reason(s) why she turned to drugs. As an act of rebellion? Peer pressure from friends? Loneliness or depression?

When you understand the specific contributing causes of your teen’s substance abuse, you’ll be able to better tailor your approach to get her help according to her personal needs.

Additionally, to acquire a better understanding of your child’s world, ask about his friends. Doing this will also divert some of the pressure your teen may be feeling due to all of the focus on her. However, because people usually hang out with like-minded individuals, you can learn a lot about your kid based on what you learn of his friends.

What are their attitudes toward drugs and drinking? What do they think of people who do and don’t use? Are there friends that push your teen into doing things he’s uncomfortable with?

Let it be up to your teen whether to reveal specific names. Otherwise she’ll feel like you are demanding her to rat on her friends and will shut you out. Likewise, never say you don’t like one of your child’s friends or pass judgement (“I don’t like Kimberly, she’s a pothead”). This will only anger your teen and cause her to lash out or divert the discussion away from her behavior.

Throughout your talk always keep in mind the internal struggles your teen could be facing. Perhaps the reason he turned to drugs is because he is depressed or emotionally vulnerable. Maybe he wants to quit using but has become physiologically addicted and cannot stop on his own. Or he could be deeply ashamed and embarrassed by his behavior and that you found him out.

With that in mind, don’t heap on guilt or call your teen a failure. Certainly stress that you severely disapprove of her drug use, but continually emphasize that you love her and will be supportive in all her efforts to get clean and make better choices.

Even if your teen was not driven to substance use because of some deep-rooted vulnerability and does not show any signs of regret over his actions—he is brazen or proud of them, even—be firm but still handle the situation with compassion. Bringing in anger or attempts to shame will only evoke the same responses from your child, further pushing him away, leaving him no closer to pursuing more positive behavior. The goal of intervening is to stop your teen’s drug abuse, not to yell and emotionally punish for the sake of it. Issuing (tangible) consequences can be a tactic in service of the former but is not itself the objective.

Your talk should be a conversation, not a confrontation.

Take the time to genuinely listen to her answers to your questions and try to see her point of view, as well as encourage her to ask questions of her own. Check yourself throughout the conversation.  Are you talking a lot more than you are listening?

Keep in mind, however, that periods of silence are okay.  Teens need longer to think and express themselves than adults.  And remember, while you have been thinking about this conversation for some time, your teen has not.

Teenagers will likely ask about your personal experiences. Did you feel peer pressure growing up? Did you ever go through ______ like me? And, of course, the main one they’ll want to know: Did you ever drink underage or use drugs?

If you didn’t partake in substance use as a teenager, that’s great. Handling this situation will be no problem. However, if you did consume either in your youth, you might panic upon hearing this query, fearing it will unravel everything you are now trying to do.

First, know that you do not have to answer the question if you don’t want to. You are not on trial, and it is not your behavior that called for this conversation. This talk is about your teen, and it is his actions that need to change. Responding to your teen’s asking can lead teenagers to think you are unfair and commanding them to do as you say, not do as you do.

Instead, recognize that your child is asking you for a reason. For the majority of teens, when they ask if you have tried drugs, the heart of their question is what should they do?

What you were like when you were his age matters to your child, even if she doesn’t show it or realize it herself. By asking about your behavior, your teen hopes to justify her own actions or learn how to do things differently, based on your example.

Whether or not you drank underage or used drugs, share with your teen ways to handle peer pressure and specific methods avoiding or saying no to drugs and alcohol.

Again, you are not obligated to respond to your teen’s initial question; however, if you choose to, keep your answer short and simple. “Yes, I tried pot a few times,” or “Yes, I sometimes drank at parties,” are more than sufficient. There’s no need to go into any more detail than that.

Furthermore, preface your answers by saying that you wish you had made better choices, the dangers of drugs and alcohol (especially to youth) were not as well known when you were young, and many drugs are much stronger today than they were in the past.

Make sure you do this before you give your answer, though. If you attempt to give these qualifications after you’ve admitted using substances, your teen will interpret them merely as lame excuses. All he will hear is that you got to do it, but he cannot. You can explain some of the consequences you suffered because of drinking or doing drugs and how situations would have turned out better if you had made different choices, but, unless you underwent something truly traumatic and life-altering, even this can fall on deaf ears.

Therefore, re-directing your teen’s question about your past, instead of answering it straightforward, is often the best strategy. Put the focus on her and what she needs.

Remember the fact that reading this article shows that you are a caring and responsible parent who only wants the best for their teen.  No one has all the answers and no one always says the right thing.  If the conversation doesn’t work the first time, keep trying.  Continue reading and researching and don’t give up.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for our Part 2, which covers tips on establishing rules and consequences, reaching out for help, and treatment centers.

Pictures From

Smoking Joint: From Chmee2 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You Can Do It: From Steven Depolo at https://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo/3968766889

Teen Boys Smoking: From https://pixabay.com/en/weed-smoke-drug-marijuana-joint-837125/

Overwhelmed Woman: From jazbeck at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazbeck/8025692978

Fallen Person with Pill Bottle: From Manos Bourdakis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Parent Blaming Self: From https://pixabay.com/p-111426/?no_redirect

Angry Woman: From Lara604 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/lara604/2369412952/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Parenting Disagreement: From https://pixabay.com/en/argument-couple-disagreement-female-2022605/

Planning: From https://pixabay.com/p-593333/?no_redirect

No Phones Allowed: From Pmox (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Crack Paraphernalia: From Espiritusanctus (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Honesty, Trust, and Respect: From Zaneology at https://www.flickr.com/photos/zaneology/8407967205

Car Crash: From Damnsoft 09 at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sitting Teen Girl: From Nathan Csonka at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nathancsonka/3685178495

Teen Girls Smoking: From Valentin Ottone at https://www.flickr.com/photos/saneboy/3595175373

Depressed Girl in Corner: From Baker131313 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shouting Silhouettes: https://pixabay.com/en/arguing-female-male-man-shouting-1296392/

Talking on Bench: From https://pixabay.com/en/west-friends-sit-bench-peace-826947/

On Trial: From https://pixabay.com/p-1587300/?no_redirect

Teen Hugging Parent: From Tulane Public Relations (Move-In Day  Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

THC Levels: Original Image from Pauk (Transferred from ru.wikipedia) [CC BY 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Text added by author.

Talking to Teens: From Shane Global Language Centres at https://www.flickr.com/people/shaneglobal/?rb=1

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt. 2)

Offered a cold one at a party? At a wedding reception where everyone pressures you to take advantage of the open bar? With friends who smuggle a six pack into the summer music festival?

Thirsty for more tips on how to handle these situations and more?

Modeselektor_at_Melt!_music_festival_in_Germany

Deciding to abstain from alcohol is a positive and healthy choice, particularly if you are still a teen, but it can sometimes be a difficult one to make. Other people may put enormous pressure on you to drink, and it can be hard to turn them down. And while avoiding or leaving events and situations where there is alcohol is certainly an option, sometimes it’s not always possible or desirable (you did pay good money for that music festival ticket, after all).

Here are five more tips for people who don’t want to drink.

#6 Explain Your Reasons Effectively

As explained in Tip #5 in our first article, simplicity is always useful when turning down a drink, with basic responses like “no thanks, I’m good,” proving quite successful. If somebody asks you why and you choose to give an answer—remember you can always avoid the question and use the Broken Record Technique—quick, straightforward answers are likewise the best tactic. Some examples include:

  • I’m the designated driver (more on this in Tip #10)
  • I have to get up early tomorrow
  • I just don’t feel like it
  • I partied pretty hard last night/weekend so I’m taking it easy
  • My parents will kill me and they somehow find out everything I do
  • (In the case of beer) I’m allergic to gluten

Of course, some reasons may be more effective than others explainingdepending on the crowd around you, but generally any will suffice. A good idea is to know your reasons ahead of time and even practice saying them, especially if you’re shy or nervous about telling people no. It will allow for a confident delivery (see Tip #4).

When giving any sort of reason for your sobriety there are two key points to remember:

1.) While it’s definitely simpler when your reason is true—you really do need to get up early—it doesn’t have to be. If you’re comfortable with it, a little white lie sometimes makes things easier if you’re around people you don’t know well (I don’t recommend lying to friends, and they probably know enough about you to discern the truth anyway).

In my own life, I’ve used this technique when I was feeling self-conscious or wanted to avoid the hassle of telling people I outright don’t drink. That included letting on that I drank earlier that night or in my past, even though it wasn’t true. Sobriety is nothing to be ashamed of, but telling a small lie can be less intimidating for some people.

2.) When explaining why you aren’t drinking, the best defense is not a good offense. Whether your reasons are personal or you don’t think anyone should consume alcohol, a house party is neither the time nor place to start lecturing people about impaired driving and brain trauma.

No one wants to feel attacked. So just as you want people to be chill with your decision, so too do you need to be chill with theirs.

So instead of answering with “I don’t drink alcohol and neither should you,” stick with “It’s just not my thing” or “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”

That said, if you truly do think your friends should stop drinking, or alcohol is becoming a serious problem, do reach out. Just know that mid-kegger is probably not the most practical opportunity.

#7 What’s in Your Red Cup?

One of the easiest ways to deter pressure to drink alcohol is to already have some other drink in your hand. Whether it’s soda, water, juice, a virgin cocktail, or something else entirely, just by virtue of holding a cup or bottle, a lot of people won’t even bother you. They’ll either recognize that you’re good with what you have or assume your drink is already of the booze variety. It’s completely up to you whether you inform them it’s non-alcoholic.

You can pretty much count on any event having some sort of water source, and a lot of parties will have soda or juice available for chasers and mixed drinks. In the case of the latter, however, make sure you don’t personally drink all of it. Turns out—as I’ve come to learn—this tends to upset other people.

A good tip is to bring your own drink to the party to ensure there’s something for you. You could even bring over a big liter of soda, jug of juice, etc. to share with everyone. Not only is this a good way to thank your host and contribute to the event, but also people can’t really complain you drank most of it if you are the one who brought it.

#8 Loosen Up without Boozin’ Up

Alcohol is often called a social lubricant, a way to help people lower their guard and feel more at ease in a social setting. People generally want everyone else to have fun, especially if they are the host of the event, and might offer you a drink so you can loosen up and join the fun.

239092944_b575509fb1_zIf this happens, it’s important to show them what you already know: You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Open up, laugh, joke, dance, sing karaoke, be silly! Whatever is going on or whatever the general mood is, make sure you are a part of it.

Depending on your personality, this might be difficult. You may feel awkward shakin’ it on the dance floor, for instance, but trust me, no one will notice—you’re just another person enjoying the party. Being a wet blanket skulking in the corner, on the other hand, will attract negative attention and isn’t fun for anybody.

Are people playing drinking games at the party? See if you can play with something non-alcoholic. In plenty of games, from Beer Pong to Down the River to Flip Cup, swapping in a beverage of your choice for yourself is easy and has no effect on other players. Sure, this won’t work with games like Rage Cage or King’s Cup which involve communal drink(s), and not all people are going to accept non-drinking participants in such an alcohol-centric activity, but should circumstances permit it, go ahead and try. Many drinking games are fun just as regular games.

Warning: Completely fail at a game that requires coordination when you are sober, and you absolutely will be the butt of some jokes. I speak from experience.

#9 Roll with the Punches

It’s not uncommon to get a little teasing for deciding not to drink, even from friends and others who accept your choice. You might be called a prude, goody two shoes, or maybe Mom or Dad. People may joke that you’re secretly a narc or an outer space alien.

The best way to hanLaugh at yourselfdle this is to take it in stride and learn how to laugh at
yourself. I bore the nickname “Sober Sally” for years, but instead of letting it get to me, I wore it with pride. In some sense it even made things easier, a way to get a laugh out of people who asked me to drink.

“Hey, Tyler, want a beer?”

“That’s alright, man, I’m actually a bit of a Sober Sally.”

“Haha, no worries, dude.”

Remember though, a little bit of joking is okay. Bullying is not. If something truly bothers you, speak up.

Also know that at the end of the day, there might always be that one jerk guy or girl who just can’t get over your sobriety no matter what you say or do. Just remain calm, jovial, and confident, and pretty soon they’re the one who is going to start looking like an obsessive creep.

Not drinking is your decision, and if someone dislikes it, that’s their problem not yours.

#10 Use that Clear Head of Yours

If you plan on attending places where there is drinking, you need to get used to being around drunk people. Intoxicated people often don’t think clearly and are much more susceptible to their emotions. Sometimes troubles arise, and it would help to have someone around who can think logically.

That’s where you come in.

BiffFightsStrawbBlonde1941TrailerMake sure everyone has a safe way home and nobody gets taken advantage of. Try to cool down arguments that might turn into fights. Learn how to take care of a person who’s had too much and to tell the difference between somebody who needs immediate medical attention and who is fine to go to sleep.

Don’t act like you’re Superman or the next Mother Theresa about it, though. As helpful as you might be, people won’t respond well to you portraying yourself as some sort of savior just because you aren’t drinking. At the same time, don’t feel like must sacrifice your whole night looking out for others. Have your fun but keep a subtle eye out for anything troubling.

passed out

On a similar note, since you will be sober, offer to be the designated driver.

While it can be annoying when others automatically assume you’ll DD, overall it works out for the best for you and everyone else. It ensures that your friends will have a safe ride, and it gives you an easy out for staying sober.

And because people tend to be so desperate not to be the DD, you definitely hold some leverage.

After my friend Kenny puked in my van—he got most of it in a bucket, but I still had to scrub the seat the next day—I insisted on only driving other people’s cars. You can call dibs on the music or ask for gas money; like everything else about the night, the choice is up to you.

*        *        *

By Tyler Wroblewski

We hope this list proves useful if ever you find yourself surrounded by alcohol while staying sober. Deciding not to drink doesn’t mean giving up friends or a social life, and with these tips, you can keep both and still have fun and stay safe.

Pictures From

Concert: From Alec Luhn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Talking on Steps: From Akuppa John Wigham at www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00

Juice: From https://pixabay.com/en/beverage-juices-drink-food-healthy-882652/

Karaoke: From Kyle Taylor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/239092944

Laugh at Yourself: From Celestine Chua at www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua

Fist Fight: From Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons from film “Strawberry Blonde.”

Passed Out Man: From https://pixabay.com/en/alcohol-hangover-event-death-drunk-428392/

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt.1)

As a teen, there’s a decent chance you will be offered alcohol or other drugs at some point. Maybe by a stranger at a party, an acquaintance, even a friend. And for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into right now (teen drinkers are more likely than their non-drinking peers to become alcoholics—sorry, just had to slip one in there!), we at Omni Youth Programs encourage you to turn down their offer.

Easier said than done, right?

Like, how exactly do you say no? Or how should you respond when people ask why? What if you decide to be sober but still want to hang out with friends who drink or go to a party where alcohol may be present?

Of course, Omni Youth Programs advises teens to avoid situations that involve underage drinking completely. The best way to turn down a drink is to not be in a scenario where someone would offer you one. Furthermore, even if you are staying sober, an alcohol-infused environment could still prove dangerous. Intoxicated people are more prone to bad decisions, crazy antics, and violence, all of which could put you in danger—not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law, even if you did not personally consume any alcohol.

That said, we also recognize that avoiding alcohol entirely is not always possible when leading a typical teenage life. You might show up to a pool party, not realizing there would be booze present, or go to a concert with a drunken crowd. Maybe you don’t have a safe way to leave the situation or perhaps you simply don’t want to miss out on an otherwise fun time because of the poor choices of others.

These top ten tips can apply to everyone, whether you never drink, just aren’t drinking for the night, or simply want to drink in moderation when everyone else is getting hammered. Furthermore, while I will mostly be addressing teens, these tips can be just as helpful for non-drinking adults at the bar.

#1 Trust Your Friends

As I’ve explained before, telling my friends I didn’t want to drink was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life. I was scared my decision would weaken our friendships, and we’d drift apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

hiking picture editWhile it’s possible your friends may be initially disappointed, they’ll quickly adjust. Friends don’t need to like all the same things
or have the exact same opinions on everything to be able to appreciate one another. Your real friends will accept you for who you are.

Also, once you tell your pals the first time, it’s either not a problem anymore or it gets infinitely easier to deal with. My buddies came to accept that I was a non-drinker, and if they or anyone else asked me to drink it was increasingly easy to say no. Furthermore, whenever we were at a situation with a lot of new people, I felt like they always had my back about my choices and would support me in the face of anyone who gave me trouble.

#2 Go Where You’re Comfortable

As I tagged along with my friends to various events where alcohol was present, I gradually discovered what types of gatherings I could have fun at and those that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A significant part of that was the “level” of alcohol or how much the event centered on drinking.

Some non-drinkers are comfortable with even the wildest of frat parties, some only enjoy low-key BBQs with a few beers present, while others don’t like being around booze at all. For me, I was cool with kickbacks and small-sized parties, but anything much crazier than that and I’d decline the invite.dancing legs

Figure out where you are comfortable. If you’re feeling weird, don’t feel awkward about leaving the situation. Always know that your decision not to drink does not define you. Don’t think it dictates who you can or can’t be friends with or where you can or can’t go to have fun. That’s up to you.

#3 You Aren’t Alone

Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one in the world not drinking, and pop culture often portrays being drunk as a requirement for a good time. But did you know roughly 70% of teens don’t drink?

Lots of people choose not to drink or do so only in moderation. When you are at a party or other social situation with alcohol, it’s likely there will be other people not drinking. Whether they’re the designated driver, totally abstain from alcohol, or need to get up early, you can usually find others who are sober.

friends hands edited

Also, countless entertaining activities don’t involve alcohol, everything from playing sports to hiking to shopping at the mall and more. Sure, a lot of my buddies like to drink, but that’s far from the only time we get together. Your friends will also be into doing other fun things. Capitalize on those opportunities.

#4 It’s All in How You Say It

The number one part of telling people you don’t want to drink is in the way you say it. No matter the exact words you use to say no or explain your reasoning, you need to be confident but polite. Go ahead and repeat that to yourself.

Confident but polite.

Confident: If you sound wishy-washy people might think you don’t really believe you don’t want to drink and just need a little convincing. Be assured in your decision and show it. I was at a kickback with a lot of people I didn’t know once, and it took at least three times as long for everyone to finally understand I wasn’t a drinker, all because I was too meek in my initial response.

Polite: On the flip side, you shouldn’t sound so over-confident as to be arrogant or aggressive. Doing so may seem like you are attacking everyone else. Make sure to thank them for offering—sometimes people ask you to be a good host—but then politely decline.

#5 Short but Sweet

Simplicity is your friend.

It is the greatest tool in your belt, the strongest weapon in your arsenal. When it comes to turning down a drink, simplicity is often the best tactic.

“Hey, do you want a shot?”

“Nah, man, I’m good.”

Boom. Drop the mic.

 Mic

Sometimes, less is more. You don’t need to go into long-winded explanations as to why you aren’t going to shotgun that beer if no one asks. Save yourself the time and effort and keep things short and simple. “No thanks,” “that’s alright, I’m fine,” and the like are all perfectly great responses that tend to garner equally great results. You didn’t make a big deal out of turning down a drink, so why should anyone else?

And if the first “I’m good” isn’t enough, you can always use the Broken Record Technique (aka the B.R.T.). Someone asks you again and again and again to drink? Just repeat the same short phrase again and again and again. They’ll take the hint.

*       *       *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for the remaining five awesome tips for non-drinkers!


Pictures From

Beer: From Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Group Picture & Picture of Hands: From the author.

Dancing: From www.audio-luci-store.it at www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

Microphone: From Robert Bejil at www.flickr.com/photos/robnas/

Telling Your Friends You Don’t Want to Drink: A Real Life Story

“My house is free this weekend,” my friend Nick* said. It was Christmas break 2010 after our first semester of college, and our hometown group of friends had recently reunited. “I was thinking of hosting a kickback**. Would you be down to drink?”

Friend Group Camping Edited

I never drank in high school. Neither, for the most part, did anyone in my friend group (Nick included). We weren’t close with many people outside our tight-knit group and it never came up between us. Drinking—the actual activity and even just the pressure or desire to do so—had never much been a part of our lives. That same experience continued in college for me, where I again coincidentally met friends who weren’t interested in alcohol.

The majority of my high school friends, however, started drinking at college. They came back to town with tales of drunken exploits, dozens of drinking games, and a seemingly infinite knowledge of beers, liquors, and mixed drinks. I stayed quiet when they would talk to each other about such subjects, unsure if my silence was noticeable, or worse, a drag for them. Friendships undoubtedly change as you get older, sometimes disappearing completely, and I was terrified that this was the beginning of losing them.

I found myself at Nick’s house a couple nights later, along with my friends Will, Mitch, Cody, and Kyle, one of the few others who didn’t drink at college but was willing to do so now. Two girls Will and Nick knew from school (they were the only two of us to go to the same college) would arrive later.

Someone decided we should start off the night with a shot. At this point I knew I did not want to drink and was uncomfortable with the situation. But I was afraid. Afraid to speak up, afraid to say no, afraid I might open up a rift between my best buddies and I that would continue to grow until I lost all connection with the other side. My group of friends had stuck together since middle school, but we never really encountered any challenge to those friendships, never had to put them to the test.

With that fear in mind, I took that first shot. I forget what it was now, vodka or some type of “jungle juice” mix, I think—whatever it was, it was nasty and burned as it went down.

Beer_Pong_Scene

My intense displeasure of that shot tipped the scales, though. I wasn’t going to spend my night doing this. As my friends started setting up a game of beer pong, I summoned all my courage.

“Guys,” I said, voice low and wavering. My guts churned. “Guys, I’m not going to drink.”

A clamoring of awws, whats, and why nots followed.

“I just…I just don’t want to.” At the time, I didn’t know my exact reasons for not drinking. All I knew was that it was something I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t going to judge any of my friends for drinking or try to get them to stop, but neither would I participate.

It felt like all the blood drained from my body as I waited a painfully long few seconds for their response. I wondered if I’d be asked to leave and felt my pocket for my keys.

You know what happened next? Nothing.

Not really anyway. There were a few more grumbles and at some point they playfully dubbed me “Sober Sally,” but that was it. We talked and joked around the same as always. I drank soda or nothing at all while playing their drinking games and enjoyed the night as much as anyone else—but on my own terms. I decided not to compromise my personal values and my friends hardly batted an eye.

I was part of the group and always would be.

friends on the roof

Whether you’ve never had a drink before or just don’t want to drink for the night (or want to drink less) telling people, friends especially, can be scary. In fact, it remains one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life.

RedPlasticCupYet it’s also one of my proudest. I’m proud of myself for speaking
up but, most of all, proud of my friends. In the end, I should have known. If your friends ostracize you for not doing something that makes you uncomfortable, they aren’t that great of friends to begin with. Your true friends won’t care and will accept you either way, no matter what is in your red Solo cup.

*       *       *

By Tyler Wroblewski

For specific techniques for telling people you don’t want to drink, as well as tips and tricks for being sober at an event where there is alcohol, click here for our 10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink Part 1 and Part 2!

*Some names may have been changed as per request.

**A kickback is a drinking-oriented gathering that involves too few people to be considered a party.

Pictures From:

Fig. 1 & 3: From the author.

Fig. 2: By Rethcir at the English language Wikipedia

Fig. 4: By xaosflux [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons