As teenagers push the boundaries they may experiment with alcohol to feel more grown up. Keeping these ‘grown up’ things from their parents is part of them exercising their independence.
Is it ok to let your kids drink at home?
While parents have differing views on this subject, there is no strong evidence to suggest that providing alcohol to your child at home teaches them to drink responsibly. Instead, behaviours are often learnt by teens watching parents and other role models with alcohol.
Research shows that teens are less likely to drink if parents communicate they don’t want them drinking, don’t provide alcohol, and set rules and boundaries, as well as setting consequences if these are broken.
Dealing with a drunken teen
If your teen comes home intoxicated, you have a problem that needs to be dealt with quickly. It’s normal to feel disappointed, but it’s also not the time to overreact. As a parent, it’s up to you to take control and manage the situation appropriately. You have to be firm and decisive in what to do next.
It may be years before your teen lets on about their first experience with alcohol, but the signs are there and unmistakable. Some of the more obvious things to look out for include slurred speech, the smell of alcohol on their breath or clothes and a change in mood or demeanour.
Raise the issue with them calmly and rationally:
- If you suspect they have been drinking, explain that you are aware they are probably drinking, and that you are concerned about their actions.
- If they come home drunk, wait until they have sobered up and then put them to bed. Let them know you’ll talk to them the next morning. By then hopefully you’ll be calmer, and they may be slightly hungover and more likely to accept your opinion and guidance.
- Explain the range of risks involved with drinking. They may not agree but they need to understand where you are coming from, and why you are concerned.
- Try to find out what has led to this incident – it may not be “just a stage”. (is it due to peer pressure? Boredom? Curiosity?)
- Set clear boundaries and outline your expectations.
- Seek help from your GP or health professional if you are worried it’s becoming regular behaviour.
- Most importantly, make sure your teen knows you will always be there for them, and that they can call you if they run into trouble, whatever happens and at whatever time.
Delaying the introduction of alcohol for as long as possible starts at home – it’s one of the most important things you can do as a parent. DrinkWise has developed the DELAY five point plan to assist parents to talk to their teens.DrinkWise - Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix brochure