Set expectations with your teenager about alcohol

group toasting glasses
group toasting glasses

group toasting glasses

Parents are hugely influential role models for their children. By exercising moderation, not drinking and driving and showing that there are plenty of ways to celebrate that don’t involve cracking open a bottle of wine or beer – you can set a good example for your child.

Setting expectations

A great way to set expectations with your child about drinking is to:

  • ask them what they know about the effects of alcohol
  • find out what their views are of getting drunk and using drugs
  • ask them if their friends drink often
  • question if there will be alcohol at the party they are going to
  • ask if there will be adults supervising.

The safest way to minimise the risks associated with drinking is to avoid alcohol all together, particularly if your child is under 18. You can work with them to develop ways to manage peer pressure they may experience when it comes to drinking. For example, if they are going to a party but don’t want to drink, help them come up with an answer they feel comfortable with when people ask them why they aren’t getting drunk.

You may also want to speak to the parents of your child’s friends – presenting a united front on under age drinking can be hugely helpful. It’s worth noting that supplying alcohol to under 18’s on private property can be against the law in some states.

Taking precautions 

If your child understands the risks and decides to drink anyway, safety should be your first priority. Make sure they understand the ways to drink and stay safe. This includes:

  • pacing their drinks
  • making sure they eat before or during a party
  • drinking a glass of water in between drinks
  • arranging transport that doesn’t involve them driving
  • not ‘pre-loading’ (drinking) before they go out
  • keeping to recommended limits of 2 standard drinks per day.

While you may not like the fact that your child drinks alcohol, by discussing alcohol use with them openly and non-judgmentally, they’ll be more likely to tell you honestly what’s going on. That way you’ll be able to intervene if you need to, particularly if your child is at risk in some way. Being prepared to assist if your child has an alcohol related incident is very important.

This doesn’t have to mean they get a free pass without the consequences of poor judgment. Losing privileges or freedom for a while is way better than dealing with injury or even worse consequences of them being in a dangerous situation where they are out of their depth.

Knowing where to get help and learning from situations that go wrong can be a valuable part of your child learning how to drink safely.

Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on