The large majority of young people are choosing not to drink. In fact, according to the National Drug Strategy 2013 Household Survey, the number of young people aged 12-17 years who reported they had not drank alcohol in the previous 12 months has increased from 54% in 2004 to 72% in 2013 (AIHW, 2015)
The latest research shows that young people continue to undergo important brain development until their mid-20s. Evidence suggests that drinking alcohol during the teenage years can disrupt this healthy brain development.
While we know that alcohol can damage the developing brain it is not clear how much alcohol it takes to do this. It is therefore recommended that for under 18's no alcohol is the safest choice and that they delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible. (NH&MRC, 2009)
For this reason (and many others) parents are advised to encourage their kids to avoid drinking for as long as possible.
Some young people however will still choose to drink.
As a parent you can influence your adolescent's attitudes and decisions around alcohol, though this is most effective before they start drinking.
The Parenting Guidelines for Adolescent Alcohol Use describes a range of strategies you can use to help delay or reduce your adolescent's alcohol consumption, as well as comprehensive information including:
- Things parents should know about alcohol and young people
- Delaying the use of alcohol
- Being a role model
- Talking to your adolescent about alcohol - see The Other Talk for more about this
- Establishing family rules
- Balancing monitoring with your adolescent's need for privacy.
- Encouraging positive friendships and dealing with peer pressure.
- Preparing your adolescent for unsupervised drinking situations and possible risks
- Warning signs that indicate your adolescent may be misusing alcohol; and talking about your concerns.
- Hosting an adolescent party
- Your relationship with your adolescent
- Supporting your adolescent
As a parent you may not be able to prevent your kids from drinking. There are heaps of things you can encourage them to do to help them be safer if they do choose to drink. Check out our Safer Drinking Tips
Where can I get help?
If you are unsure how to help your young person, try talking to someone, such as:
- A family member or a friend
- Your family doctor
- Where appropriate, your adolescent's school/college/TAFE/university support teachers, social workers, psychologists
- A helpline for 24/7 support such as Lifeline, Kids Helpline (0-25 years), Parents Helpline.
Here's a list of confidential services you can call where someone will be able to discuss your worries and help you work out what to do.
Remember to look after yourself as well and get the support you need to stay healthy.
Here are some other websites you may wish to check out.