Twelve Talks to

Have With Teens


Adults often feel that a little alcohol is harmless for teens. However, underage alcohol use — particularly binge drinking — leads to risky sexual behavior, use of other drugs, alcohol poisoning or violence. ​


  • Jefferson County youth report that when they drink, they usually drink "to get drunk." 

  • Youth alcohol use can contribute to a variety of serious problems including:

  • Increased likelihood of risky sexual behavior

  • Increased risk of physical and sexual assault

  • Increased risk of memory problems

  • Alcohol is the most common "date rape" drug. Jefferson County youth report that sexual assaults almost always involve alcohol (2018 Youth Town Hall).

  • In Jefferson County, youth report three main sources of alcohol: taking it without permission from home, buying it off someone old enough to purchase it and being given alcohol by a parent or guardian (2018 Youth Town Hall).

  • Jefferson County youth report that drinking most often occurs in people's homes with "chill" parents or when parents/guardians are out of town. When asked what "really happens" at parties, youth report binge drinking, use of multiple types of drugs, rape and fights as common occurrences (2018 Youth Town Hall).

  • Local data shows that when parents set the expectation of knowing where their teen is and who they are with, those teens are much less likely to binge drink. 

  • Because the teenage brain is wired to learn quickly, but is not yet fully developed, as described in the video below, use of alcohol and other drugs is particularly likely to harm the brain’s development.

Learn how your teen’s brain develops and how substances can impact the process. (3:15)

How to start a conversation

  • When you see advertisements for alcohol or are going past an alcohol store or bar, use that as a conversation starter by commenting on the number or style of alcohol references in the area.

  • Ask open ended questions, such as:

  • What would you consider to be too much to drink? What do you know about blacking out (cannot remember events) after drinking?

  • What worries you most about teens your age drinking? Why do you think violence, including unwanted sex, is correlated with times people are drunk?

  • Why do you think people drink? (If you know your teen drinks, ask what they get out of it).

  • How should adults who supply alcohol be held responsible for any arrests, car wrecks, sexual assaults or alcohol poisonings that occur as a result of alcohol they supply?

  • Tell your teen you were just reading statistics about drinking in Jefferson County. Ask them to define binge drinking and to guess what demographic has the highest rates of binge drinking. (Answers: 4 drinks for women/ 5 drinks for men; and white, middle class, middle aged women.)

  • Want some coaching on talking to your teen? There is an app for that! Learn more about the “Talk They Hear You” app by watching this short video.

Quick tips

  • If you drink around your teen, be honest about your enjoyment — but avoid glamorizing it. Talk about how and why you limit the amount you drink.

  • Let your teen know that you do not approve of adults providing alcohol and other harmful substances to teenagers.

  • Include discussions about parties in your conversations, such as how to handle alcohol or drugs, sexual advances, watching out for friends, and getting a ride home if their ride has been drinking or using other drugs.

  • Be sure to tell your teen very directly (and even if it feels uncomfortable) that combining sex — of any type — with alcohol or other drugs is not acceptable. They should not have sex with someone who has been drinking or taking drugs, and they need to stop others from hooking up with someone who is intoxicated. No one can give consent if they have taken, or may have taken, any type of alcohol or drugs.

  • Want to practice the conversation before you have it? Try out this conversation simulator from Be The Influence.

Things to do

  • In Jefferson County, teens who report that parents or guardians know who they are with and where they are when they are not home are much less likely to binge drink. Make sure your teen communicates this information with you.

  • If adults in your home use alcohol, make an agreement that they will never provide alcohol to those under 21. 

  • Discuss alcohol poisoning, signs of an alcohol overdose, and resources, including understanding Colorado’s "Good Samaritan" Law. The law states that if you call 911 in the event of a friend or loved one overdosing on drugs or alcohol, and you stay with the person experiencing overdose, you won't get in any trouble - even if you were drinking or taking drugs yourself. The law also protects the person experiencing alcohol poisoning or other overdoses.

  • Keep alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and firearms in a locked cabinet or in locked room in your home. Track the amount kept in the home and let your teens know you keep track of it. Even if your teen would never take these items without permission, locking them prevents your teens friends, younger children, visitors to your home and pets from accessing them. Need ideas for putting this into action? See the handout below.


  • If you worry that a loved one needs help with substance misuse, including alcohol, Jefferson Center has helpful guidelines for you to consider. This article from Jefferson Center can help you decide. 

Recommended Resource

Navigating Substance Experimentation in Teens Free Parent Workshop

  This free, temporarily online, workshop provides strategies, information and resources for parents or guardians whose teen has been caught using vape, tobacco, alcohol, marijuana or taking someone else's prescription medication. The workshop is led by professionals in teen substance use prevention and takes place at Jefferson County Public Health in Lakewood on the 1st Wednesday of each month from 6-8 PM. The class is free. Register here.

Other Recommended Resources

  • The SAMHSA Talk They Hear You: This website includes information for parents about talking to youth about alcohol, how to tell if your teen may be drinking, and answering tough questions (such as, “Did you drink when you were a kid?”)

  • Preventing Teen Drug Use: Risk Factors and Why Kids Use: This resource from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids outlines many of the reasons why teenagers may use alcohol and other substances.

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* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019 & 2020.


This project was created by the Jefferson County Communities That Care coalition and is housed within Jefferson County Public HealthThis resource was developed with funding from a Communities That Care grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, a grant from Community First Foundation and a Drug-Free Communities grant from the Office of National Drug Control Policy and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.