Whether it’s on TV, in the paper, or chatting with friends at a barbecue, conversations about young people drinking alcohol often focus on how risky it is, and the unfortunate outcomes that so often come to pass. And this is for good reason – a lot of the time, young people who have been drinking make decisions that they regret and find themselves in dangerous situations that they wouldn’t be in if they were sober.
Lead by example
The behaviour of parents will inevitably influence the drinking habits of their children. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that adults drink no more than two drinks per day, and no more than four drinks at a time. If your child sees you drinking responsibly – and not just drinking to get drunk – they will be more likely to adopt similar habits in their own lives.
It’s important that your child feels like they can talk to you about these things. If you keep channels of communication open they will 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 can print out information from a website that you like that offers facts on alcohol. Be very clear with your child about what the risks are, and how they can reduce the negative risks of drinking alcohol from a purely physical stand point. Use this as an introduction to how you feel about alcohol and your child drinking based on that. Saying, ‘you can’t drink’ without giving them the facts is not giving them the opportunity to make an informed choice.
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 your child about establishing a drinks limit based on this information. 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 they reach the legal drinking age and you will need to keep talking about it through the teenage years as your child becomes more social.
Understanding peer pressure
The friends that they hang out with can often influence the behaviour of young people. This can lead to them trying to keep up with their mates, and drinking more than their body can handle. Have a chat to your child and help them come up with strategies to deal with drinking peer pressure. Suggestions include:
- ‘I’ve got to study tomorrow’
- ‘I’ve got training this week’
- ‘I’m working tomorrow’
- ‘I’m finding it hard to study with a hangover’
- ‘I don’t need it to have a good time’
- ‘If I want to go to Schoolies I can’t blow it with my folks now’