Help kids say no to booze

Communicate with your teen
Many parents express concern over possible alcohol misuse, but they don’t always discuss their views and concerns with their teens. Rather than waiting until a problem arises, talk with your teen about your concerns and the messages they may be getting from the media and their peers.

Encourage teenagers’ abilities and interests
Encourage teens to engage in activities that develop interests and skills.  These activities should help teens feel good about themselves without the use of alcohol. Hobbies, school events, sport, healthy relationships and volunteer work may keep young people from using alcohol.

Help your teen deal with peer pressure
Parents can help their teen say no to alcohol without losing face.  Here are some things teens can say: “I don’t like the way it (beer or wine) tastes”, “I’ll be grounded for life if my dad finds out I’ve been drinking”, “ I need all my brain cells for rugby practice (math test, homework) tomorrow”.

Permit white lies
Tell your teen he or she can “blame” you when under peer pressure.  For example: “My mom’s going to give me a driving lesson this afternoon”, “If I don’t drink I’ll get to stay out later”. Tell them that many times a simple “no thanks” or “not today” will do.

Know the facts about alcohol
Parents should know the effects of alcohol on the body and the risks of alcohol misuse.  This information should be communicated clearly and consistently to teenagers.  Teenagers should for example know the different strengths of different alcohol products and how to compare different drinks in terms of the quantity and absolute alcohol each contains.
One standard unit of alcohol (10g of pure alcohol) is roughly equal to:
  • 2/3rds 340ml can of beer (5% alcohol)
  • 90ml glass of wine (12% alcohol)
  • 25ml shot of Tequila (40% alcohol)
  • 2/3rds 340ml bottle of Spirit Cooler (5% alcohol)

Create strong family ties
Strong family ties can help protect against alcohol problems in young people. Family activities (for example: sports, movies or family meetings) along with open discussion and flexible rules can be particularly helpful.  Really listening to your teen, even when you don’t agree, will strengthen ties between you.

Guide and limit

Preventing alcohol abuse begins at home. Parents need to guide their teens and set clear and reasonable rules. To do this, parents should clearly state rules about alcohol (for example: tell teens not to drink and drive to prevent them from causing accidents but also to enable them to avoid accidents caused by other people). Calmly talk about alcohol use before problems start (for example: use news reports of alcohol related accidents to discuss the harmful outcomes of drinking).

Encourage teens to be healthy
Talk with your teen about the advantages of eating nutritious foods, exercising, driving safely, and getting enough sleep.

Encourage a long-term focus
Teenagers who have a long-term focus, a vision of their future, goals and plans are much less likely to drink than those who are orientated toward short-term gratification.  Prompt your teenagers to think about their future, to make plans and to set goals for themselves.

Be aware of the example you set
Be a role model.  If you drink, do so responsibly. If you have a drinking problem or think you may have one, seek help. If there is a family history of substance abuse, discuss it with your teenager.

This information first appeared in: Teenagers & Alcohol, a practical guide to assist parents in initiating conversations with their children about alcohol-related issues, launched by the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA) in 2008.  

What have you told your teenagers about alcohol? Do you think these guidelines will work?

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