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Help for Parents

It can be hard to talk to your kids about drug use, suicidal thoughts, mental health or alcohol use. But it is important to keep them safe.

Your Life Iowa can help you have these conversations. We can also help you and your child connect with support when there is a question or concern. It's free and confidential. 

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 Live Chat   Help for Teens


Iowa ranks above the national average for underage drinking.1 Many youth begin to use alcohol during their teen years. This often puts themselves or their friends at risk. It's important to talk to your child about the risks and harms associated with drinking alcohol. If you're unsure how to start the conversation with your child about drinking, we can help.

Signs of Alcohol Use in Teens

If you notice several of these signs at the same time or they are extreme, it's time to reach out for help.2

  • Mood changes: flare-ups of temper, irritability, and defensiveness
  • School problems: poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent disciplinary action
  • Rebellion against family rules
  • Friend changes: switching friends and a reluctance to let you get to know the new friends
  • A "nothing matters" attitude. This could be a sloppy appearance, lack of involvement in former interests, or low energy
  • Alcohol presence: finding it in your child's room or backpack, or smelling alcohol on his or her breath
  • Memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech

Underage Drinking Risks

There are many potential negative outcomes from using alcohol underage. It's important to know how underage drinking impacts youth, such as: 3,4

  • Increase risk of using other substances
  • Declining performance in school
  • Alcohol-related injuries, accidents and car crashes
  • Alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose
  • Alcohol-related violence or assault
  • Lasting brain damage and problems with memory, judgement and thinking skills
  • Increased anxiety and depression

Talking to Your Child About Alcohol

It's important to talk to your child about alcohol to help reduce their risk of underage drinking. When having the conversation, remember to let your child talk and listen to them. Ask them questions about their views on alcohol or if they have peers or friends who drink alcohol.

Know the facts about underage drinking. Be prepared to talk to your child. Emphasize that it's never safe to drink alcohol under the age of 21.

Set clear rules and expectations for your child about their alcohol use. Clear expectations help children and teens make informed decisions. They may be less likely to engage in risky behaviors when there are clear expectations.

Have a young adult drinking alcohol? Get information and resources with Help for College Students.


College Drinking: Changing the Culture
Website with research-based information on issues related to underage drinking and binge drinking among college students. 

Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol
NIAAA publication with tips on how to talk to your child about alcohol use. 

Start the Conversation - Prevent Underage Drinking
Talk it Out website on how to talk to young people and teens about drinking. 

Underage Drinking Prevention: The Consequences of Underage Drinking
PDF overview of the SAMHSA "Talk, They Hear You" media campaign. 

Get the Facts About Underage Drinking
NIH webpage with information on underage alcohol consumption. 


1. Alcohol: Underage Drinking. Iowa Substance Abuse Brief: Substance Use Among Young Adults, October 2022, Issue X.

2. How to Tell If Your Child Is Drinking Alcohol. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

3. Risks of Underage Drinking. Medline Plus. May, 12, 2022.

4. Risks of Underage Drinking. Medline Plus. May, 12, 2022.

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