Social Pressures on Drinking Alcohol
How ridiculing non-drinkers is harming your teenager
Drinking alcohol is a strong part of the Australian culture and it can be a difficult decision to be a non-drinker because of the implications it may have socially. Choosing not to drink alcohol is an individual decision, which should be supported, however this is rarely the case in Australian society. Often when adults choose not to drink they feel they need to make excuses or justify their decision to others.
Out-casting adults that choose not to drink alcohol is setting a risky example for teenagers. Teens look to their parents and other adults around them as role models to help them develop socially acceptable attitudes and behaviours. Teenagers are on the brink of entry into adulthood and one of the dilemmas they face is the social pressure on drinking. They feel vulnerable as they make the shift from parental security into peer bonding and reliance. You can be certain that any derision of non-drinkers will make its mark. The last thing any teenager would risk is being isolated or ridiculed by their peers.
Research shows that around 30% all 16-17 year olds in Australian schools have never had a drink of alcohol, despite what your teen may tell you. Non-drinking is an option for our teens but it is rarely discussed. Unfortunately, many young people who choose not to drink do not talk about their choice and often feel isolated from the drinking culture.
They learn this from somewhere and although it would be easy to say it’s all due to their peers, in actual fact they learn most of this from the adults around them and their attitude to non-drinking.
- Examine your own values. Make sure you do not rate a non-drinker as being an outcast. So much of what our kids pick up from adults is not in what they say but in the emotions and attitudes around what they say and the way they say it. If you do have a problem with it, try asking yourself why and then address it quickly.
- Try non-alcoholic alternatives. Make sure your child knows that there are non-alcoholic alternatives and that alcohol does not have to be part of every social gathering. Remember, role modelling is extremely important – if you want your child to understand that not everyone has to drink alcohol all the time, you need to lead by example.
- Talk to family/friends. Let them know how you feel about this issue. Sometimes people make jokes about non-drinking without even thinking about it. Sometimes they need to be reminded about how inappropriate it is to do this around your kids and respect that it shouldn’t happen again.
- Don’t be afraid to air your disapproval. If a friend does put down a non-drinker after you have already raised your concerns, ensure that your kids hear you disapprove of the comment. You may openly challenge the critic or, if that could cause unnecessary offence, make it clear to the kids afterwards where you stand on the issue. That should open up useful discussion and help the kids acknowledge the fact that it’s OK to say no.
- Highlight non-drinking examples. Although there is the belief that everyone drinks at some time or another, 10% of all Australians have never tried alcohol. A much larger percentage are ex-drinkers. If you have a friend or relative who has chosen not to drink, make sure your child is aware of their decision. Make sure that your kid gets to hear about the other side of the story.