Could your teenage child be drinking to cope?
Use our guide to spot the signs that a young person may be drinking to cope with problems, and get advice on how to approach conversations about this issue
Our independently conducted national research has found that more than four out of ten (43%) 13-17 year olds who have had at least one alcoholic drink say they have drunk for a coping reason. That includes drinking to forget about problems, cheer themself up, or because they think it will help with feeling depressed or nervous.1
Help and support are available for young people that need it – read this guide for more information on why it can happen, and what you can do about it.
If a young person is drinking on a regular basis, drinking on their own, drinking during the daytime, or often look hungover, it’s something that needs to be taken seriously.
Young people can also show they’re not coping through other changes in their behaviour, such as seeming increasingly angry, more withdrawn, more secretive, stopping spending time with friends, or often being upset.2
If this is happening to a young person you’re responsible for, it’s a good idea to talk to them about what they’re going through, so you can enable them to get any help they need.
As a parent or guardian, it’s important to pick your moment - some teenagers might not want to talk at first.
Let them know you are concerned about them, that you care about them, and that you are there for them if they need you. Think about the method of communication that you find has the best results with them – whether it’s face to face, while out for a walk or in the car, on the phone, or even by text, if that’s something you find normally gets a good response.
When you do talk to them:
If your child is drinking to mask how they’re feeling, it’s important to talk about what it is they’re really going through.
Sometimes, depending on what the underlying issue is, that might mean it’s better for them to talk initially to an independent trained person who can help. There are links at the end of this article with further advice.
If you can, talk first to anyone you share parenting with about your worries, before speaking with your child - they might have a different take on the situation.
Agreeing on the situation and your approach will help to create a supportive environment where you can work together to resolve the concern.
If your child is having problems, don’t be too hard on yourself. Although it can be upsetting and worrying if your child is having a bad time, and can make your relationship with them feel more stressful, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.
And if things are getting you down, it’s important to recognise this. Talk privately to someone you trust and seek their support – friends and family can often help.
If you think your child is struggling with their mental health, consider getting in touch with your GP surgery and talking to your child’s school or college.
In many cases (although not all), children may prefer to speak to their GP together with their parent or guardian.
You can make an appointment on your child’s behalf, or, if they are mature enough to have their own consultation (usually from about 12 years of age), they can make an appointment for themselves. Doctors can offer independent, confidential advice.
Last Reviewed: 28th April 2022
Next Review due: 28th April 2025