Young girl having a serious conversation with her parents.

Take Action on Preventing Underage Drinking


Be open and honest with your teen or child.
Share why you believe it’s too early for him or her to start drinking. Talk about the effects alcohol can have on mental development and health. The earlier you have this conversation, the better.

Share your experiences.
Let your youth know that you can relate to the pressures he or she may be feeling to drink. Share how your life choices involving underage drinking affected you positively or negatively.

Set rules.
Be clear about your expectations beforehand by setting rules early.

Use positive reinforcement.
Reward your youth for good behavior and always be encouraging.

Let them know the consequences.
At the same time, be open about what the consequences are for breaking the rules ahead of time.

Monitor your teen.
The decision-making part of a young person’s brain is still developing. Your oversight is key to holding a young person accountable for his or her decisions.

Be supportive.
Some of the reasons that teens may turn to drugs and alcohol include stress, pressure to fit in, and insecurity. These are all feelings and emotions that come with being a teen, and as a parent or caregiver, it’s your job to support the youth you care for in tough situations.

Be creative.
You want your youth to engage, so you have to be engaging. Check out our Plan Builder for ideas.


Set rules about alcohol for inside and outside the house.
Explain that all forms of underage drinking are illegal in DC and that you would like your youth to adhere to the same guidelines both inside and outside the home.

Set rules about parties and get-togethers with underage drinking.
Be clear about how you want your youth to behave if alcohol is present at a party. They should know that even being present at a party with underage drinking can get them into trouble. Direct your teenagers to excuse themselves and call you if they find themselves at a party with underage drinking.

Looking for more resources? Download our brochure.

Share the dangers of drunk driving.
Let them know that if there’s a chance that they’ll be drinking, they should NEVER drive. Also, instruct your youth not to get in a car with friends who have been drinking. Prompt them to call you or an older sibling if they find themselves in this situation.

Picking Friends.
Make it a rule for your youth to disclose the contact information of friends and their caregivers. While you can’t pick your children’s friends, you can set the rules about having this information before allowing them to go out with those friends.

After you outline the rules, ask your youth to commit to them. Be sure to remind youth of the rules often. The last part of rule-setting is making sure that your youth knows about the consequences and rewards for adhering to the rules.


Keep track of the youth you care for or your child’s friends.
You should know who they’re hanging out with and if this friend group changes.

Know the youth you care for or your child’s activities.
Be aware of where your youth is, especially between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. when parents or caregivers are at work.

Check in with the youth you care for or your child.
Send a quick text, touch base by phone, or connect by whatever mode of communication works for you and your youth.

Ensure activities have adult supervision.
Check that the activities your youth engage in include adult supervision and that you know the adult who is supervising.


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The average age of first use of alcohol among DC high schoolers was 12.7 years.