Top tips for talking about alcohol with your teenager
Give them information and facts. During adolescence a young person’s brain is changing, as a result they are learning to make more decisions for themselves. By giving the information about the risks and consequences of drinking alcohol and supporting them in making their own decisions you will help them to become independent and take responsibility for themselves.
Have on-going conversations about alcohol. Teenagers tend to respond badly to lectures or rules which they see as unreasonable/unfair. So make sure that you approach talking about alcohol as a general discussions rather than one-sided lectures.
Boundaries are a vital part of healthy child development. It can be hard to impose a structure or boundaries, either for fear of unpopularity or because of an aversion to confrontation or discipline. Reassure yourself that the result of a child with no clear limits or safety net is unpredictability, anxious and unable to self-police. Be aware, teenagers do not exhibit the sedative effects of alcohol in the same way as adults do so it is easy to look at them and think they have not had as much to drink as they have4.
Be honest. It’s far better to confess, for example, that “yes, I drank at your age – and I regret the times when I did drink. If I knew then what I know now, I would have stuck to the low risk guidelines”. If their questions get uncomfortable, say so and talk about that.
Make it clear that their health and safety is vital to you. The UK Chief Medical Officers (CMO) recommend that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. If children do drink alcohol underage, it should not be until at least the age of 15 years.
Talking about alcohol with children
If 15 to 17 year olds do consume alcohol, they should limit it to no more than one day a week. Young people aged 15 to 17 years should never exceed the recommended adult weekly alcohol limits (no more than 14 units a week) and, when they do drink, they should usually drink less than that amount.
This content has been provided to Drinkaware by Janey Downshire co-author of the book Teenagers Translated, an organisation who provide training courses for parents and schools.