Adolescence, the period of transition between childhood and adulthood, is usually a process of significant developmental change that at times, can be difficult for the adolescent themselves, as well as for their parents. For the adolescent, it can be marked by confusion and inner turmoil as they attempt to work out how and where they fit into the world.
Vulnerability to peer pressure, risk-taking and experimentation are normal and expected behaviours during this period, and may in some cases, involve the adolescent experimenting with alcohol use. While this behaviour can prove challenging to parents, there are strategies that can help them to prevent or reduce their adolescent child’s alcohol use.
The following guidelines are consistent with the Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol (2009) and have been developed by 32 Australian experts with considerable experience within the fields of adolescent alcohol treatment and parenting practices. To prevent or reduce your adolescent’s use of alcohol it is recommended that you:
- Delay your adolescent’s introduction to drinking alcohol.
Research suggests that the longer your adolescent delays alcohol use, the less likely they are to develop problems;
- Model responsible drinking & attitudes towards alcohol.
Parents are important role models and what you drink, how much you drink and where you drink are all major influences on how your adolescent will drink;
- Talk to your child about alcohol.
Talking about the risks associated with alcohol can help reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm; listen to your child’s views and encourage them to talk about their interests or concerns about drinking;
- Establish family rules.
Family rules about alcohol are important in protecting your adolescent from alcohol misuse, as are establishing realistic consequences for when rules are broken.
- Monitor your adolescent when you are not around.
Monitoring your adolescent’s whereabouts and activities when they are unsupervised reduces the likelihood that they will misuse alcohol;
- Prepare your adolescent to deal with the influence of peers.
A good relationship with your adolescent will reduce any negative influence from their friends. Get to know your adolescent’s friends, encourage positive friendships and build a support network with other parents.
IF YOUR ADOLESCENT HAS BEEN DRINKING WITHOUT PERMISSION
Know the signs that indicate your adolescent could be misusing alcohol. There are a range of behaviours that when seen in combination, may indicate an engagement in excessive drinking. These can include:
- Repeated health complaints;
- Changes in sleeping patterns;
- Changes in mood, especially irritability;
- Starting arguments and/or withdrawing from the family;
- Dropping grades, frequent school absences or discipline problems; and
- Changes in social groups and activities.
Parenting Guidelines for Adolescent Alcohol Use, Parenting Strategies Program, www.parentingstrategies.net