How to talk to your child about alcohol?
From when your child turns 12 years old until they reach about 24 years their brain is forming all the parts needed for learning, memory, planning, emotional stability, and thinking. Alcohol can disrupt this. Your child trusts you and relies on you for information and advice. Research shows that they believe that you should teach them about alcohol.
If you make it clear that their questions are welcome and you try to answer them, they’ll keep coming back. You don’t have to cover everything at once; you’re more likely to have a greater impact on your child’s decisions about drinking if you have a number of chats. Think of this as part of an on-going conversation.
Discuss the issues
Keep the lines of communication open with your kids. Discuss the fact that not everyone drinks. Be aware that young people are likely to have a favourable perception of the social benefits of alcohol – they seek to drink believing it will help them fit in, and need to know that they can fit in without drinking alcohol.
TIP: Highlight that not drinking is the norm for young people. Two-thirds of 12-15-year-olds have never had a drink of alcohol. Let older teens know that they are not alone, with one in five 16-17-year-olds sharing in their decision to not drink.
Educate by example
Be a positive role model, use alcohol responsibly. KIDS ABSORB YOUR DRINKING, so watch your own alcohol consumption and remember that there is the option of not drinking alcohol at all. If alcohol does play a role in your family life, talk to your child about how you use alcohol responsibly and the rules and boundaries you follow.
TIP: Parents who drink alcohol and have more lenient attitudes towards alcohol are more likely to have adolescents who consume alcohol at risky and high-risk levels. Try not to make every family gathering or celebration focus around alcohol. Make a point of having alcohol-free events to demonstrate to your children that you can enjoy yourself without alcohol.
Listen and engage
Be aware of and show interest in your child’s upcoming activities and discuss these (it’s an opportunity to set clear expectations). Get to know their friends and their friend’s parents.
TIP: Knowing your kid’s friends’ parents gives you the advantage of knowing where your child is and enables you to discuss and develop a common position on things like drinking alcohol so that the kids are hearing one strong and united voice. If they don’t agree with your position at least they know your views and will be better placed to respect them. Be comfortable in the knowledge that you are in the majority- choosing to delay your child’s introduction to alcohol.
A good relationship
Work on developing and maintaining a good parent-child relationship based on clear and open communication. Parent-child relationships characterised by emotional warmth and support, trust, involvement, and attachment are associated with lower levels of adolescent alcohol misuse.
TIP: Kids who feel their parents are caring, concerned and supportive start alcohol use later and drink less. Be there to support them as hormonal changes, school commitments, and peer influence build.
Delaying your child’s first drink requires making your expectations regarding alcohol very clear. Not just to your child, but to the other adult influencers in their lives. Every family is different and boundaries and expectations need to be consistent with what you believe.
TIP: Involve your child in the development of the rules; your child needs to understand why the rules exist in the first place. They may not like the rules you set but it is vital they can see what your concerns are and how you hope to address them. Think about who bought or gave you your first drink/s… have you had a chat with the equivalent person in your child’s life?