Tips for Parents

It’s never too early (or too late) to start talking with your child about alcohol. Your best chance to influence their attitudes and decisions is to talk openly before it happens.

The legal age for people to drink in Australia is 18 years of age

Talk to your child early and often about alcohol

Your child is more likely to be open to hearing what you have to say and accepting your rules while they are younger, rather than later in high school.

Here’s some useful tips for talking with your child about alcohol:

  • Be prepared
    • You don’t have to be an expert, but it’s good to be prepared and ready with what you want to say and how, before you talk to your child. Think about your beliefs about underage drinking, and what your child may ask and how you might respond. You may not know all the answers, but you should be prepared to answer some difficult questions.
  • Be specific about your expectations
    • For example, make it clear that you don’t want your child to drink alcohol, and it can be helpful to explain why.
  • Take everyday opportunities to start the conversation (not a lecture)
    • Parents tell us starting the discussion when you’re both relaxed is helpful – like at the dinner table, when you’re driving them somewhere, or watching TV together.
  • Tell your child the facts about alcohol
    • It’s important your child knows the risks associated with alcohol but at the same time, if you use scare tactics, your child may dismiss what you are saying.
  • Make time to listen to what they have to say
    • This lets your child know you are interested and helps to build a relationship where they feel more willing to share information with you.

For more tips on talking to your child about alcohol, including how to prepare for more tricky conversations, visit Supporting Family Conversations.

You can also talk to other parents - you might be surprised to learn that fewer parents give alcohol to their kids than your child may have you believe.

No amount of alcohol is safe for under 18s


Times have changed - we now know more about the dangers of young people drinking. Now that we know better, let’s do better.

As a parent or caregiver, you influence your child’s attitudes and decisions around alcohol more than you might think. Your advice and support helps keep them safe, even if it’s not always welcomed.

Research consistently shows that, despite what some parents think, giving your child alcohol at home or on special occasions under your supervision, is not a safe way to introduce them to alcohol.12

In fact, young people who get alcohol from their parents – even small amounts like sips and tastes – are more likely to start drinking earlier, drink at high-risk levels, experience harm from alcohol, and get more alcohol from other sources like friends, compared to teenagers not given alcohol by their parents. 345

The younger they are introduced to alcohol, and the more often they drink, the higher this risk.

When parents actively disapprove of underage drinking, and enforce clear rules, young people are less likely to drink and experience harm from alcohol.678

In WA, most parents of 12 to 17-year-olds have never given their child alcohol.

Research with WA parents shows they commonly overestimate how many other parents give alcohol to under 18s, and this perception influences their own decisions.

WA parents tell us they want to feel supported and empowered in their decision to say ‘no’.

Parents as role models


Young people notice what their parents do. They look up to you, and other significant adults in their lives, even if it sometimes doesn’t seem like it.

If your child sees adults drinking regularly and enjoying alcohol, they are more likely develop positive ideas and attitudes about alcohol. This can start from as young as four years old!

It’s important for your child to see adults enjoying themselves without alcohol, not having alcohol as the focus at all social occasions, showing you can refuse a drink, and choosing to have alcohol free days.

Children are always listening, and even the way you talk about alcohol sends a message. For example, when you say, “I’ve had a hard week, I need a drink”, your child hears “Alcohol is a good way to unwind when things are tough”.

Being a positive role model helps shape your child’s understanding of alcohol, including how alcohol may, or may not, be a part of their adult life.

As parents, it’s important to challenge the idea that drinking is a normal part of growing up, and everyone starts drinking alcohol eventually. More young people are choosing to not drink alcohol than we’ve ever seen before, and more adults are also choosing to go alcohol-free.

1

Clare, P. J., Dobbins, T., Bruno, R., Peacock, A., Boland, V., Yuen, W. S., Aiken, A., Degenhardt, L., Kypri, K., Slade, T., Hutchinson, D., Najman, J. M., McBride, N., Horwood, J., McCambridge, J., and Mattick, R. P. (2020) The overall effect of parental supply of alcohol across adolescence on alcohol-related harms in early adulthood—a prospective cohort study. Addiction, 115: 1833– 1843. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15005.

2

Mattick, R., Clare, P., Aiken, A., Wadolowski, M., Hutchinson, D., & Najman, J. et al. (2018). Association of parental supply of alcohol with adolescent drinking, alcohol-related harms, and alcohol use disorder symptoms: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet Public Health, 3(2), e64-e71. doi: 10.1016/s2468-2667(17)30240-2

3

Clare, P. J., Dobbins, T., Bruno, R., Peacock, A., Boland, V., Yuen, W. S., Aiken, A., Degenhardt, L., Kypri, K., Slade, T., Hutchinson, D., Najman, J. M., McBride, N., Horwood, J., McCambridge, J., and Mattick, R. P. (2020) The overall effect of parental supply of alcohol across adolescence on alcohol-related harms in early adulthood—a prospective cohort study. Addiction, 115: 1833– 1843. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.15005.

4

Mattick, R., Clare, P., Aiken, A., Wadolowski, M., Hutchinson, D., & Najman, J. et al. (2018). Association of parental supply of alcohol with adolescent drinking, alcohol-related harms, and alcohol use disorder symptoms: a prospective cohort study. The Lancet Public Health, 3(2), e64-e71. doi: 10.1016/s2468-2667(17)30240-2

5

Boland VC, Clare PJ, Yuen WS, Peacock A, Aiken A, Wadolowski M, et al. The association between parental supply of alcohol and supply from other sources to young people: a prospective cohort. Addiction. 2020;115(11):2140-7.

6

Chan, G. C., Kelly, A. B., Connor, J. P., Hall, W. D., Young, R. M., & Williams, J. W. (2016). Does parental monitoring and disapproval explain variations in alcohol use among adolescents from different countries of birth? Drug Alcohol Rev, 35(6), 741-749. https://doi.org/10.1111/dar.12413

7

Shaw, T., Johnston, R. S., Gilligan, C., McBride, N., & Thomas, L. T. (2018). Child-parent agreement on alcohol-related parenting: Opportunities for prevention of alcohol-related harm. Health Promot. J. Austr., 29(2), 123-132. https://doi.org/10.1002/hpja.39

8

Yuen, W. S., Chan, G., Bruno, R., Clare, P., Mattick, R., Aiken, A., Boland, V., McBride, N., McCambridge, J., Slade, T., Kypri, K., Horwood, J., Hutchinson, D., Najman, J., De Torres, C., & Peacock, A. (2020). Adolescent alcohol use trajectories: Risk factors and adult outcomes. Pediatrics, 146(4), e20200440. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-0440

Page last updated: 01 July 2022

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