What to Do When Your Adult Child Is Drinking Too Much

drunk adult child

Having adult children can be both a joy and a burden. What happens if your adult child is headed down a dangerous path? Do you feel like it is no longer your place to say anything? Do you fear you’re overreacting and may push him away? Our grown-up children may be adults, but they sometimes still need our support and intervention. If you think your adult son is drinking to excess, you should step in and say something. Offer to help and provide information to back up your concerns.

How Much Drinking Is Too Much?

The first thing you should do is educate yourself as to what constitutes excessive and dangerous drinking. When you have the facts, you’ll feel more confident approaching your child with your concerns. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking, or drinking that is low-risk in terms of developing an alcohol use disorder, is defined as no more than three drinks in one day or seven drinks per week for a woman, and no more than four drinks on any day or 14 drinks per week for a man.

Binge drinking is defined as any amount of alcohol that elevates blood alcohol to 0.08. For men, this typically means five drinks in two hours, and for women, four drinks in two hours. Heavy drinking is having five or more drinks at one occasion on five or more days within the last 30 days. In other words, someone who engages in binge drinking five or more times per month is drinking heavily. Both heavy drinking and binge drinking are considered unhealthy and put a person at risk for developing alcoholism, not to mention a number of other health problems.

Now that you have the facts, you can decide if your adult child is drinking too much. If you find it hard to define his drinking according to the above facts, there is another simple guideline to follow. Whenever someone’s drinking causes negative consequences, he is drinking too much. Consequences could include regular hangovers, missing work, poor academic achievement, weight gain or getting in trouble with the law.

How to Talk to Your Adult Child

You have a better idea now about what it means to drink too much and whether your adult child qualifies. So how do you approach him without making the situation worse? Here are some tips:

  • Talk to him only when he is sober.
  • Be calm and logical. Present him with the facts without becoming emotional.
  • In addition to general facts about heavy drinking, give him personal facts. Point out how his drinking has affected him negatively. Give him specific examples.
  • Don’t use threats or bribes. Remember that he is an adult now.
  • If he isn’t receptive to your message, try again with one or two other people. There is power in numbers.
  • Offer your assistance. Tell him you will support him if he wants to try cutting back on alcohol.
  • If you have been helping him in certain situations because of his drinking, tell him calmly that you will stop.

Most importantly, remember that you are still the parent and you care about your child’s well-being, no matter his age. If you approach from a position of love and caring, you just may be surprised. He may feel relieved that someone is finally trying to help him, and now that you are, it’s time to support him as he learns to moderate his drinking.

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