Learn five ways you can influence your teenager’s decisions and behaviour about alcohol and other drugs.
Making the time to talk
Feeling connected and supported
Know the facts
Plan and supervise activities where alcohol might be present
Be consistent and influence
1. Making Time to talk
Having good communication lines with your teen can mean they are more likely to come to you in a time of need rather than feeling alone.
When talking to your teenager listening is the most important part. Listen without judgment and reaction.
Whether you choose to have a formal conversation using relevant brochures and websites as a reference, or an informal discussion, consider these tips so you keep the lines of communication open with your teenager.
Choose the right time. Make sure there are no distractions and everyone is calm and relaxed
Be patient and stay calm
Sometimes teenagers have difficulty expressing what they mean, or they see things slightly differently to you. Be patient, be understanding, and stay calm.
Be honest and lead by example
Be honest about your values and what concerns you. This will help them understand that you care about their wellbeing. Be open and honest when discussing your own experiences. Let them know what can happen if they drink too much or too quickly.
Make decisions together
It’s important to be supportive and respectful when making decisions together. Establish ground rules, boundaries and consequences. Help them make their own decisions.
Keep the lines of communication open. Let them know you’re always there if they need to talk. Don’t be afraid to talk about an alcohol related issue more than once, or to raise the subject randomly.
The way you speak with your teenager can affect the way they respond to what you’re saying. Interrogating and lecturing them can create friction. Try being open to ideas and discussion by valuing their opinion, empathising and working things out together.
Explain the facts on alcohol in your own words and content in a way your teenager will understand.
2. Connected and Supported
You can promote a feeling of connection, value and supported lasting sense of resilience in your teen by:
- Making the most of challenging moments so that teens can grow and learn from them
- Allow them to have active participation within the family and the community
- Seek their opinions and views. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no response
- Challenge them and engage in discussion with them when they express an opinion or a belief
- Give your teens responsibility; encourage them when they are old enough to get a part time job and give them a say in how they contribute around the house
- Negotiate and compromise with your teenager
- Encourage them to make suggestions on family meals, holidays etc this is all part of listening and negotiating with them regardless of the outcome
- Assist your teenager to problem solve issues themselves
- Affirm positive actions and celebrate achievements with them to show their efforts have value
- Be genuine
3. Know the facts about alcohol
Consider incorporating it into the conversations you have with your teenager.
Effects of alcohol on young people
It’s not only important for you to know why your child shouldn’t drink, it’s important that they know the reasons why they shouldn’t drink alcohol. Be sure they understand that it’s all about how much you love them and want to protect them.
Here’s some information to give you a better understanding of why your child should avoid alcohol. Consider incorporating it into the conversations you have with your child.
Alcohol affects young people differently to adults. It interferes with the neural refinement of the brain and affects memory, problem-solving skills, mental health and the ability to learn. It can also affect the physical size of their brain, resulting in a smaller frontal lobe and irregularities in the white matter.
Short and long-term effects
Adolescent alcohol initiation can have detrimental effects because young people tend to become dependent on alcohol more quickly than adults, they seek treatment less often and relapse quickly after treatment. It can also be linked with alcohol related problems such as memory loss and chronic disease later in life.
Mental health disorders commonly linked with early initiation include:
- bipolar disorder
- attentions-deficit/hyperactivity disorders.
Young people tend to seek thrills by placing themselves in high-risk situations and sometimes doing things they later regret. In fact, alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death among young people:
- Unintentional injuries
Signs that alcohol may be affecting your teenager
- school problems, such as higher absence and poor or failing grades
- social problems, such as fighting and lack of participation in youth activities
- legal problems, such as arrest for physically hurting someone while drunk
- physical problems, such as hangovers or illnesses
- unwanted, unplanned, and unprotected sexual activity
- physical and sexual assault
- abuse of other drugs
- recurrent health complaints
These signs may indicate other problems as well, if you are concerned consult with a health professional for further advice.
When raising the issue of alcohol misuse with your teenager, remain calm and listen to their side of the story. Tell them your concerns about how their alcohol use has put their health and safety at risk. If they have broken the law, convey to them how it can impact their future including employment opportunities.
Make it clear they understand that it is the behaviour you don’t approve of, not them as a person.
Consider using the services of a professional such as your GP or a counsel.
What are the Guidelines *
Most teenagers remain responsible and many choose not to drink. Teenagers (15-17 years) who have reported alcohol consumption that placed them at single occasion risk of injury at least once in the past year (2011-12) was about 31 per cent for males and 14 per cent for females.**
In Australia there are:
- An increasing number of teenagers who are drinking at more risky levels than there was 20 years ago.
- Drinks teenagers are having are much stronger such as ‘alcopops’, and other spirit drinks
- Teenagers who are drinking more in a shorter period of time or ‘binge’ drinking
This ‘binge’ drinking trend (ie. Drinking heavily over a short period of time) is causing long term psychological effects as well as physical damage.
What is a standard drink?
Alcohol comes in a wide variety of bottles and serve sizes. How do you know how much you’re drinking in one occasion?
In Australia, one standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol, regardless of the volume and type of drink. By law, the number of standard drinks and percentage of alcohol per 100ml must be noted on the bottle label.
Counting the number of drinks is a good way of keeping track of how much you have consumed. It’s important to know what a standard drink is, and how many standard drinks are in each bottle of alcohol.
The Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol give you evidence and support to assist teenagers to have little or no alcohol. More information on standard drinks can be found here https://www.nhmrc.gov.au.
Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm over a lifetime
The lifetime risk of harm from drinking alcohol increases with the amount consumed.
For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury.
Guideline 2: Reducing the risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking
On a single occasion of drinking, the risk of alcohol-related injury increases with the amount consumed.
For healthy men and women, drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
Guideline 3: Children and young people under 18 years of age
For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
- Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.
- For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.
Guideline 4: Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Maternal alcohol consumption can harm the developing foetus or breastfeeding baby.
- For women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option.
- For women who are breastfeeding, not drinking is the safest option.
Know the law: alcohol
Every state and territory in Australia has different legislation surrounding the supply of alcohol to people under 18.
The following points clearly identify your legal obligations under Queensland legislation:
It is legal:
For a person younger than 18 years to drink alcohol within private premises, with the supervision of a parent/guardian.
It is illegal for:
A parent/guardian to provide alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years, then NOT provide adequate supervision.
- Someone other than a parent/guardian to supply alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years, even on private property.
- People under the age of 18 years to purchase alcohol.
- People under the age of 18 years to have alcohol bought for them in public places.
- People under the age of 18 years to attend a licensed venue (a pub, a bar, a football club or an RSL club), without parental supervision (there are some special circumstances).
- Licenced premises to sell alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years alcohol.
- Under-age drinking or possession of alcohol in a public place could result in a fine up to $2846
- If your teenager is under-age and found in licensed premises they could be fined up to $2846.
- If your teenager is 18 and buys alcohol for their under-age friends they could be fined up to $9108.
- If you get caught providing alcohol to your under-age child in an unsupervised environment you could be fined up to $9108.
While families, of course, are usually protective of their children, parents are commonly the source of alcohol to their children, or their children’s friends. This is known as secondary supply of alcohol.
Did you know?
40% of under-age drinkers get alcohol from their parents
Supplying alcohol to young people in the private setting
It’s not an offence in Queensland for a person younger than 18 to drink in a private home with supervision. However, it’s important to provide adequate supervision by a parent or guardian, and consider the message you send by allowing this to happen.
Teenagers can spend a large amount of their time on social media sites. Social media sites expose them to alcohol messages that encourage and glamorise drinking. Personal photos and messages of friends and celebrities can demonstrate that underage drinking is acceptable.
4. Plan and supervise activities where alcohol might be present
Hosting a party
If your teenager wants to host a party, different things need to be considered.
Supervision of a teenage party is essential. It’s a legal requirement for a responsible adult to be present at a private party for under 18s.
Tips for hosting a teenager’s party
- Recruit some ‘helpers’ who can help you supervise your guests
- Ensure no one under 18 is served or given alcohol unless you have their parent’s explicit permission
- Limit your own alcohol consumption on the night
- Only have one entrance where guests can enter and leave
- If alcohol is available limit it to one area and have a responsible adult serving who isn’t drinking alcohol
- Supply a range of non-alcoholic drinks such as soft drink, fruit juice and water.
- If you decide to supply and serve the alcohol, ensure the drinks are low-alcohol and served for a limited time
- Provide plenty of food
- Organise activities such as dancing, karaoke, games or sports to keep your guests entertained
- Be prepared to confiscate alcohol if necessary
- Make sure all your guests have safe transport to and from the party
- Don’t let your guests go home alone
- Don’t allow guests to drive home if they’ve been drinking
- Have police and emergency numbers on hand
- Register your party with the local police
Adult supervision may not always be present to monitor and control situations. By taking the time to talk you are sending them out on the right path to be safe.
Going to Parties
Consider each invitation and discuss things your teenager can do to keep themselves safe. Especially if alcohol is going to be present.
To get an idea of what type of party is planned, find out:
- the ages of the people invited to the party
- who will be supervising the party
- whether food and alcohol will be available
- how the host plans to deal with gatecrashers
- what time the party will finish.
- If others will be bringing alcohol
- Give them emergency money
- Make sure you are available if they need to call you
- Set boundaries/ ground rules
Remember its ok to say no to providing alcohol at parties and its ok for teenagers to say no if someone offers them a drink.
Schoolies is a rite of passage for school-leavers. In Queensland, young people head for coastal spots the week after finishing school for a week-long celebration away from adult supervision. Schoolies week celebrations tend to include excessive drinking of alcohol, which can end badly and spoil the whole Schoolies party. Excessive consumption increases the risk of alcohol-related harm.
While Surfers Paradise is the most popular destination, some schoolies head to the Sunshine Coast, Byron Bay and other hot spots. It is increasingly popular with students to look overseas. Overseas destinations pose higher risk for young people as they are beyond the regulation and standards of the National and state government’s laws and legislations.
Regardless of the destination, you need to prepare your teenager so they can enjoy the celebrations safely (and so you can sleep soundly at night and not stress too much). They will need practical information so they can safely deal with issues like alcohol, drugs and sex.
5. Be consistent and influence positive behaviour
Model responsible drinking and attitudes towards alcohol, including demonstrating to your children that alcohol isn’t essential to having a good time.
Follow the Australian guidelines and have alcohol free days.
What you do shows your teenager how you want them to behave. For example, how you cope with feelings such as frustration and distress influences how your teenager regulates their emotions. What you eat, how much you exercise, and how you look after yourself will all influence your child.
What you say is also important. You can help your teenager to manage and control their own behaviour by talking about how behaviour affects other people. You can also use more complex reasoning and examples to talk about the differences between right and wrong. Now’s a good time for this because they are developing their ability to understand other people’s experiences and feelings
Try to practise what you preach. Teenagers can and do notice when you don’t!
Review your own drinking rules and boundaries ask yourself:
- How much do you drink on one occasion, over the week,
- Do you designate a driver when going out
- Do you have alcohol free family events
- Do you drink to get drunk