Parenting Advice on Alcohol for Teens
How to discuss alcohol and the dangers of underage drinking with teenagers
As a parent, talking to your teenager about alcohol and setting rules and boundaries to keep them safe can be daunting. The majority of parents feel that it is their responsibility to create strategies and educate their children on when, where and how to drink, whilst many parents struggle with how to provide advice on alcohol.
When should you start the conversation and what should you be saying about alcohol at the different stages in your teenager’s development?
It is vital that parents keep the lines of communication open throughout the teen years. Make sure you have frank discussions about alcohol and debunk some of the popular and unhelpful alcohol related myths – for example, every parent provides their child with alcohol; every teenager drinks alcohol to get drunk; etc.
Teenagers will raise the topic of alcohol if and when they’re ready to talk. Be ready to have that conversation and address their queries when they raise them, as that’s when they’re most open to hear your advice. The key message here is for parents as role models to be prepared to provide advice on alcohol and know what you want to say to them ahead of time.
Parents play a crucial role in shaping their child’s attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol. Remember, “kids absorb your drinking”.
- Pick your time. The car can be a great place and time for constructive conversations with teens. If kids are alone with you they can become quite philosophical. Also, they can’t get away and they don’t have to look at you!
- Be consistent in your own behaviour. It’s easier for teens to model their behaviour on positive role models when it’s consistent. Try not to contradict yourself.
- Draw the line between adult things and child things. Don’t be afraid to let your child know that some things are not appropriate for teens. If you believe that drinking alcohol is only something that adults do, then make sure they hear your views on the matter loud and clear. Driving a car is something that you can only legally do after a certain age for a whole range of reasons and the same applies with drinking laws and the dangers of underage drinking. Make sure you discuss the additional risk kid’s face if they take part in adult activities like drinking alcohol.
- Challenge unfounded statements. If your child tells you that ‘everyone else drinks’ make sure you do not let this statement go unchallenged. In fact, not all young people drink. According to the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey 61.6 % of teenagers (aged 12-17 years) abstained from alcohol. If your teenager insists the opposite, then let them provide some proof. Telling your teen that they’re ‘not every kid’ or that ‘you don’t care what everyone else does’ is not effective, you must challenge their untrue statements.
- Be aware that teenagers are likely to want to drink alcohol believing it will help them fit in. They need to know they can fit in without drinking alcohol.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
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