Here you can find useful information about how to talk with your kids about drinking and alcohol.
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What are the harms associated with drinking to intoxication?
Drinking to intoxication puts people at risk of serious short and long-term harms, including:
The risks associated with short-term harm can include immediate health and social problems, such as:
- injuries from violence (as a perpetrator, a victim, or a witness);
- pedestrian and road accidents (death/severe injury);
- trauma related admissions to hospital emergency departments;
- alcohol poisoning;
- social and personal consequences such as the impact on families and social embarrassment;
- loss of valuable items i.e. phone or wallet; and
- having unprotected sex and placing yourself at greater risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and/or an unwanted pregnancy.Back to Top
Risky and high risk drinking particularly during early adulthood may also have serious longer-term consequences, including:
- social problems, such as spending more time drinking than pursuing other interests;
- brain damage, including the inability to learn and remember things;
- depression and suicidal thoughts;
- the development of chronic disease, including some cancers and heart disease;
- cirrhosis of the liver; and
- dependence on alcohol.
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What influence do I have on my teenager?
Parents and carers play an important role in educating teenage children about the use of alcohol, setting standards and limits for their children, and in modelling attitudes and alcohol consumption behaviour.
Research has suggested that teenagers look to their parents to provide guidance and boundaries of acceptable behaviour with respect to drinking alcohol. This of course, is not to suggest that teenagers will never overstep these boundaries, but rather an indication that teenagers are looking to their parents to set and communicate these standards, against which they can assess their own behaviour.
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How can I talk with my teenager about drinking and alcohol?
Talking to your children about alcohol use and the consequences and risks associated with drinking to intoxication can play an important role in influencing your teenager’s drinking habits. By modelling responsible attitudes and behaviour with respect to your own drinking and avoiding drinking to intoxication, you have a much greater chance of positively influencing your teenager’s attitudes to drinking.
Alcohol and young people: A guide for parents
has been established to provide parents with information and advice about how to approach the topic of drinking to intoxication with their children and how parents can influence their teenagers’ drinking.
If you would like copies of the parents guide mailed to you or your organisation please download the order form
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Useful tips5 6
- Ensure that you are well informed about alcohol and the risks and harms associated with drinking alcohol. Our Links page provides a number of other resources available to assist your teenage children in avoiding alcohol-related harm and drinking to intoxication.
- If you are unsure of a question asked by your teenager, make the effort to find the answer together.Back to Top
Set a good example
- Model responsible behaviour and attitudes towards drinking and alcohol that are consistent with the expectations you have set for your kids.
- Drink sensibly and keep a track of how much you are drinking.
- Show your teenager how to refuse a drink that is offered by a friend.
- Educate your teenager about the size of a standard drink. Standard drink sizes can often be deceptive to both adults and teenagers.
- Be aware of your attitudes and reactions towards alcohol. For example saying “It’s been a hard week, I need a drink!” clearly identifies your attitude towards alcohol.
- Don’t drink and drive.Back to Top
Encourage open lines of communication from an early age
- Aim to eat dinner as a family unit to allow teenagers to talk about their day and any other issues they might want to discuss.
- Set aside family time and allow opportunities to discuss issues such as drinking and alcohol.
- Don’t make these issues the focus of every outing or discussion, as teenagers will tend to avoid time spent together.
- Get to know your teenager’s friends so that you know where they are going and who they are going with.
- Build support networks with friends’ parents to assist with difficult situations and keeping a track of them to ensure you know where they are.
- Assure them that if they do get into trouble you are there to help them out.Back to Top
What to talk about
- Discuss the risks and harms associated with drinking to intoxication, including the impact on health (ie brain damage, memory loss) and social well-being (ie doing something that is embarrassing or that they may regret).
- Set clear boundaries and expectations with regards to what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour with regards to drinking alcohol.
- Aim to discourage your kids from drinking alcohol for as long as possible. Once teenagers have started to drink, it is often difficult to reverse.
- Discuss what to do if a friend is intoxicated.
- Stress the importance of never getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Agree on a plan if this situation ever arises, which may include paying for a taxi when they get home, picking them up, or allowing them to stay overnight at a friend’s place.
- Teach your children how to cope with situations they may be faced with if they do decide to drink alcohol. Ensure your position on the matter is clear, however, educate them on how to be safe and how they can reduce the risks and harms associated with drinking to intoxication.
For more information, see ‘Teenagers and alcohol: A quick guide for parents
and 'Talking with your teenager about alcohol
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Peer group pressure
Teenagers can find themselves in situations where it can be difficult to say no because their friends are doing it and they fear social isolation. Here are some suggestions for what your teenager can say if they feel under pressure to drink:Back to Top
What should they say?3
- ‘No thanks’.
- ‘I don’t feel like it’.
- ‘I’ll just have a soft drink thanks’.
- ‘Not for me’.
- ‘I’ll pass this time thanks’.
- Assure them that saying no and standing up for what they believe will often seem hard at first but feels good once they do it.Back to Top
What should they do?
- Encourage your teenager to be assertive. Saying how they feel can earn them respect among their friends. Suggest that they let their friends know that they expect them to be supportive and to not pressure any teenager into something they don’t want to do.
- Encourage your teenager to hang out with friends that they feel comfortable around and who don’t pressure them into drinking. Remind them that being part of the ‘cool’ crowd isn’t always as fun as it may look.3
- In a difficult situation, teenagers can always put a drink down and walk away from it later.3
- Suggest activities that your teenager and friends can do that don’t involve alcohol, such as a games night, movie night or dinner where everyone brings a specially cooked dish.
- Educate your teenager about standing up for others facing peer pressure. In situations where an individual feels comfortable in their environment, a teenager can help reduce peer pressure by standing up to anyone pressuring others to drink.
For more information, see ‘Why it’s dumb to drink when you’re a teenager
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There are help and support services available for young people and their parents about problems with alcohol and other related issues. Visit our Need help
page for further information.
page also provides a number of other resources available to assist you in educating your teenage children about alcohol-related harm and drinking to intoxication.Back to Top