He was just eleven years old when he first tried alcohol at a friend's house, and by age 14 Jack was drinking regularly. He joined the millions of teenage boys and girls who had what he called a "positive experience" with alcohol, yet the long-term effects were devastating. During his later teen years, Jack was hospitalized with severe mental health symptoms, and by early adulthood he had been in jail four times.

If you're a parent to teenagers, you're most likely to read the above paragraph and say, "Oh, thats so sad! But my teenager would never do that!" But reality says that may not be so.

How does alcohol romance your teenager?

There are literally millions of stories of addiction and recovery, even for teenagers. Not one of those teens started out with a determination to experience the devastating effects of alcohol addiction! From beer-pong parties to copying the behavior of older siblings or even of parents, teens are inundated with messages that say its ok, even fun, to drink alcohol. Those emotional issues that nearly all teens struggle with - like feeling insecure and afraid, feeling misunderstood, being victimized by bullying and dysfunctional family systems, depression and even more serious mental health issues - all are made better temporarily by taking a drink of alcohol. That first drink calms fear, reduces social anxiety, provides a setting for inclusiveness for the outcast and quiets the mental demons for those struggling with deeper issues.

Its like the ultimate romantic relationship, with a few terrifyingly destructive aspects thrown in. Your teen is beginning to experience the hormonal, social, and mental agony of changing from a child into a teen, and that first drink just plain feels good. Like the caress of a new lover, alcohol wraps up their insecurities in gentle fuzziness and quiets their fears. They can suddenly find a way to strike up a conversation with that boy or girl who has been catching their eye. They don't feel the pain of the latest argument with mom or dad, and can forget the pressures to perform in school. And the internal confusion is hidden behind a curtain of a drug that is more addictive than any other.

I've had parents write to me of their pain when discovering that their teenager has been drinking, asking for help and sometimes wishing they could simply package up that child until he reached the age of adulthood. Parents always seem surprised at the depth of their child's pain, and struggle to understand why. Why would my child drink? He has a great life, I've done everything I could for him, he has nearly everything he wants, why would he turn to alcohol?

Its that romance thing.

Think about it this way.

If you have a headache what do you do?

Somehow when we think of medicating a physical pain, it makes sense. Of course you'll take a pill, take a nap, do something to feel better.

But your teen is in emotional pain. When lover alcohol comes along promising to remove that pain, most teens say yes.

Tools to help your teen say NO to alcohol

Here are a few tools to use as a parent in order to help your teen say no to alcohol. Start from a place of EYES WIDE OPEN. Don't rely on the hope that my teen would never do that. Addiction is far easier to prevent than to heal.

Start early. The average age of a first drink for boys is 11, for girls is 13. Does that surprise you? At that age, your pre-teen's brain development is just beginning, and damage from alcohol can be irreversible. Begin early to have conversations with your teenager about alcohol, what it is, how it works, and the pressures he will experience to try it.

Pay attention to the underlying issues that push teens to accept the romantic attentions of alcohol. Thats all those issues that we discuss here on this site. The emotional and spiritual issues that your teen struggles with. Feelings of alienation, alone-ness, fear, insecurity. Pain from dysfunctional family systems and from a world that has become very teen-unfriendly. Talk about issues, give your child information and tools to use when that romance begins. Notice what your teen isn't saying.

Be involved. Know your teen's friends. Participate with your teen in activities that don't involve drinking. Help your teen discover their talents and interests.

Pay attention to your own issues. In parenting, modeling is more powerful than teaching. Are you showing your teen how to walk through tough issues without going into denial or using a substance? If you have alcohol in your home, how often have you said, "Oh my goodness I had such a hard day - I need a glass of wine"? If you have deeper issues that need attention, let your teen in on the secret of how you find healing and your process of growth.

If you discover your teen is drinking, don't wait and hope it doesn't become a problem. That romance by alcohol is addictive. Feeling temporarily better just plain feels good, and your teen doesn't have the emotional and mental maturity to know when to stop. Get help early!

Be a mindful parent. Pay attention and give your child ways to resist the romance of alcohol. Remember that no matter how far down you and your child have gone, there is always hope!

Author's Bio: 

Ronae Jull writes from Washington State, where she is pursuing a graduate degree. With over 20 years experience coaching families, she remains ridiculously optimistic about teens, and passionate about transformational change. Read more by Ronae Jull, the HOPE Coach on her website, RonaeJull.com.

"No matter how discouraged you're feeling right now about the challenges with your teenager, there is always HOPE."