I urge you to take this issue seriously. Your teen will almost certainly be offered drinks by their peers and not want to feel left out.  They will likely have to make a decision about getting into a car with someone who has been drinking. This is the real world, and we as parents need to be preparing them to face those challenges.

Part of that preparation comes from having an ongoing conversation with them about drinking. This isn’t something that can be said once and then left alone. Ask your child questions like “Do any of your friends drink?” “Have you been pressured to drink?” “What do you think about alcohol?” If they respond by saying they “Tried it” I encourage you to thank them for being honest and work with them to understand why it isn’t a good idea for teens to drink.

Because our culture is so accepting of alcohol use by teens, concerned parents need to lay down clear and firm boundaries in this area. Your child needs to know what the consequences will be before they use alcohol. For example, you might tell them that they will lose their car if you learn they have been drinking and driving. And if they get arrested for DUI, you won’t provide bail for them.  That may sound harsh, but consider the alternatives. What will happen if they hit and kill someone while driving drunk? Teens don’t think about those possibilities when they see the glamorous side of drinking presented by our culture. And once they are drunk, they certainly won’t think about it. So it is our job as parents to make sure they consider the consequences before they drink.

Perhaps you might say something like this. “When you are age 21, whether you drink is up to you. Right now, though, it is up to me to make sure you don’t drink. I’m going to draw the line and hold that line to protect you.” Your teen may not like the boundaries you set (although they’ll probably appreciate it more than they would ever admit unless you gave them truth serum) but he needs them, if for nothing else than to tell his peers the dire consequences if he is caught. This is often reason enough for his peers to stop badgering him to drink.

Teenage alcohol use is an issue that needs to be addressed head-on. You may think “my teen will never become an alcoholic, or get arrested for driving under the influence, or get pregnant because she was too drunk to care.” It happens more than you might think it does.  So, what is the best way to respond? When it comes to alcohol use by teens today, passive (“Don’t ask, don’t tell”) parenting certainly won’t protect your teen. Permissive (“Let’s allow kids to drink at home”) parenting can actually encourage it. So it is up to you to practice proactive (“No alcohol until age 21″) parenting, and hold the line.

Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a therapeutic boarding school located in East Texas. Call 903-668-2173. Visit http://www.heartlightministries.org, or to read other articles by Mark, visit http://www.markgregston.com. Also, you can download Mark's new free e-book titled "Road To Restoration - 20 Ways to Bring Healing To Your Family" by clicking on the link.