By talking openly, leading by example and setting clear expectations, you can help your teen make healthy choices about the place of alcohol in their life. These choices will help prevent them making decisions they’ll regret or getting into dangerous situations they wouldn’t be in if they were sober.
Lead by example
The drinking behaviours of parents will inevitably influence the drinking habits of their teen. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that adults drink no more than two drinks per day in general, and no more than four drinks on any single occasion. If your child sees you drinking responsibly – and not just drinking to get drunk – they’ll be more likely to adopt similar habits in their own life.
It’s important that your child feels that they can talk to you about alcohol. If you keep the channels of communication open, they’ll be more likely to approach you for advice, and you’ll be more aware of what they’re getting up to when they head out. Try to initiate honest and open conversations with them, and ask them about their views on alcohol and other drugs to gauge what they think is appropriate behaviour.
Give them the facts
When you’re talking to your child about alcohol, make sure you’ve got the facts on standby. You could print out information from a website that you like that offers facts on alcohol - the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reliable information you can use. Be very clear with your child about what the risks are, and what they can do to reduce those risks. Just saying, ‘You can’t drink’ without giving them the facts worded in a way they can relate to, isn't giving them the opportunity to make an informed choice. People are motivated to make good decisions when they have a clear rationale, not just because someone says so.
Establish a drinks limit
When your child turns 18 and can drink legally, it can be tempting for them to go out and drink to excess. Have a chat with them about establishing a drinks limit. Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has shown that the average age at which young Australians have their first full serve of alcohol is 15.7. This means that these conversations should be happening before your teen reaches the legal drinking age. You'll need to keep talking about it through the teenage years as your child becomes more social and starts drinking with less and less supervision.
Understanding peer pressure
The friends your teen hangs out with can often influence their behaviour. Your teen might feel like they need to keep up with their mates by drinking more than their body can handle. Have a chat with them, and help them to come up with strategies for dealing with peer pressure. For example, they could say to their friends:
- ‘I’ve got to study tomorrow’
- ‘I’ve got training this week’
- ‘I’m working tomorrow’
- ‘No, thanks. Trying to study with a hangover sucks’
- ‘I'm having fun already. I don't need it.’
Here are a few more creative ways your teenager can say no to peer pressure.