As much as you may want to be your teen’s ‘best friend’, it’s more important to be a responsible parent.
Parents have the greatest impact on shaping kids’ attitudes to alcohol. When both parents share the same attitudes and act consistently, it can make a real difference to how your kid(s) view alcohol. If a young person gets mixed messages, then it’s harder for them to develop a positive attitude towards alcohol.
Parents need to agree on appropriate rules and boundaries for their teen when it comes to alcohol, plus consequences if they’re broken.
If parents have differing opinions about providing alcohol to their teens, this should be discussed between themselves – without placing the child in the conflict.
Broken relationships can make this situation harder. Some parents may be reluctant to enforce rules, fearing it will make them unpopular with their child. Remember, however, that once the rules and boundaries are made it is important that either party ‘gives in’, or any respect for these rules will be lost.
There are ways of maintaining a positive relationship other than giving your teen alcohol. Whatever the reason for the difference in opinion parents might have, it’s important to develop an agreed approach.
Tips for developing a consistent approach:
- Before you discuss the issue with your child’s parent, do your research. Ensure you understand the potential for damage to developing bodies, and that early introduction may be linked to issues with alcohol later in life.
- Discuss the issue without your teen first – when they are in bed, or away from the house.
- If you can’t reach an agreement, consider seeking professional help – through your GP, the local family relationship centre, or a qualified counsellor.
Gaining support for your parenting strategies around alcohol
Kids search for the type of adult they want to emulate – so they will observe the way your family and friends behave around alcohol, and that will play a pivotal role in developing their attitudes and drinking behaviours.
As teens mature, they’re more heavily influenced by their peers and what they see on social media, TV, and in movies. Having positive role models to counteract social pressures is crucial in order for your teen to develop a healthy attitude towards alcohol and responsible drinking.
In order to gain the support of other influential adults in your teen’s life, talk to your family and friends about how you feel about alcohol. Ensure they are aware of the messages they may be unconsciously sending to kids about drinking alcohol.
Don’t be afraid to voice your disapproval if a family member or friend continue to behave poorly. Ensure your teen hears you disapprove of the behaviour – either by challenging the person directly, or talking to your teen afterwards.
If someone has a problem with alcohol, discuss it with your teen. Whether the person is a family member, a friend, or someone external, their behaviour may raise questions and result in positive discussions. Instead of avoiding the issue, ask your teen what they think about the behaviour and what they would do.
Through the evidence-based Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) provide Australians with evidence-based advice on the health effects of drinking alcohol. The Guidelines recommend that to reduce the risk of injury and other harms to health, children and people under 18 years of age should not drink alcohol.
The following resources may help you say nay to underage teenage drinking and plan to have a conversation with your teenager:
- It’s okay to say nay
- Talking to your teen about alcohol
- Developing a consistent approach to teen drinking with your partner
- Is supplying alcohol to teens legal?
- Setting family rules around alcohol
- Is your drinking influencing your kids?
- DrinkWise campaigns for parents
- Alcohol and your health – DrinkWise body health tool