Your drink, your teen’s problem?

“Although teenagers  learn about drinking from a variety of sources, whether it is family, friends, people they look up to or social or environmental influences, the role parents play is a leading factor in the teen’s decision about alcohol”, says Adrian Botha, spokesperson for the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA). 

Parental behaviour is very important in the eyes of adolescents, as this is the time when they grow up and observe. Research has shown that teens who have supportive parents with open communication lines are less likely to experience problems with alcohol than young people who come from families where parental supervision is lacking.

The kind of alcohol beverages young people drink and how they obtain those products varies around the world. Surveys in the U.S. have shown that many teens get alcohol from their parents’ home or from other persons above the legal drinking age.

In a study on underage alcohol use it has been found that:
  • 90% of underage drinkers were either given alcohol for free or had someone else purchase it for them.
  • A quarter of underage drinkers reported getting alcohol from an adult who was not related to them; 1 in 12 said they got it from an adult family member other than a parent or guardian; and 1 in 16 said they got it from a parent.

Another study showed that parents who drank heavily tended to be lax in monitoring their children's comings and goings, but tended to punish them more often. Those tendencies seemed to influence their teenagers' odds of drinking and getting drunk.

In South Africa, teens are not just consuming alcohol, but it has been recorded that 23% of our youth binge drink, or in other words, drink with the intention to get drunk.

Why do teens drink?
Underage drinking is certainly nothing new and although there are many reasons why adolescents drink, some of the most common reasons found in recent studies include:
  • Escape
  • Boredom and instant friends
  • Rebellion
  • Everybody is doing it…
  • Instant gratification
  • Lack of confidence
  • Parental influences

It is clear that positive parenting has to be strengthened.  Parents should be encouraged to engage with their children on the issue of drinking and should also set the example through their own behaviour. It is vital that parents use their positive parent power to communicate with their children about making smart and responsible choices.

If you are a parent, be a role model.  

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 ARA in 2008.  

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