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Talking to your teenager about alcohol

Australian children live in a world where alcohol is regularly promoted and consumed, so it’s useful for them to discuss alcohol with their parents from an early age and understand what their parents expect of them.

Talking to your teen

The best time to start talking about risky alcohol use is before it happens.Parents can use media portrayal of alcohol use and related problems to start discussions that are general, rather than subjective and sensitive. 1 As children get older, parents have a critical role: know where your children are and who they are with, and be clear about your expectations (keeping in touch, time to come home, what will happen if they break the rules) and what to do if they get into difficulty.

Discussing teenage alcohol-related harm

Talk about how alcohol might affect them even if they don’t drink themselves. Rather than just telling them what concerns you, try to find out what they might be concerned about, such as how drinking may lead to behaviour they’ll later regret. You could ask if they know of examples of this happening to others – either on television or in movies, or in their day-to-day lives. This can help you reach an agreement on your rules about drinking and explain the rationale for those rules 2.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines state that for those under the age of 15, it is important not to drink. And for those aged 15 to 17, the safest option is to not drink and to delay starting drinking.

Explaining the effects of alcohol with teenagers can help when discussing why alcohol use should be delayed until 18 years of age. This summary of alcohol-related harms for young people may help:

  • Alcohol use contributes to the three leading causes of death among adolescents including unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide 3.
  • Other harms include risk-taking behaviour, unsafe sex choices, sexual coercion, academic achievement, adverse behavioural patterns and alcohol overdose 4.
  • Research indicates that alcohol may affect brain development and be linked to alcohol-related problems later in life 5.
  • The safest option for teenagers is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible 6.
 
References

1 Allsop, S. (2012). How to set teens up for a healthy relationship with alcohol. Retrieved from http://theconversation.edu.au/how-to-set-teens-up-for-a-healthy-relationship-with-alcohol-7370

2 Allsop, S. (2012). How to set teens up for a healthy relationship with alcohol. Retrieved from http://theconversation.edu.au/how-to-set-teens-up-for-a-healthy-relationship-with-alcohol-7370 

3 National Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf pg 58.

4 National Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf pg 59.

5National Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf pg 57.

6 National Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol (NHMRC). Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from. http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf pg 57.