What can you do
Adults have an important role to play in delaying the age at which young people start to drink. We need to be aware of what may encourage teenagers to drink so that we can take as many steps as possible to delay teenage drinking.
There are a wide range of factors that can encourage young people to start using alcohol.
- Spending time with friends in unsupervised settings (friend’s home, on the street or in parks)
- Friends drinking
- Over-exposure to adult drinking
- High-risk drinking by older brothers and sisters
- Being involved in problem behaviour at an early age
- Living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood
- Skipping school
- Parental separation
- Having more money and greater spending power
What are the factors that help teenagers delay drinking?
- Clear messages from parents that underage drinking is unacceptable
- Clear example from parents about how to drink responsibly
- Praise and encouragement from parents
- Strong relationships with their family, friends and teachers
- Good social skills
- Involvement in school, youth groups, sports or church activities
Four things you can do to delay teenage drinking
1. Talk and listen to your teenager - it is the greatest support you can give them.
- Know the facts about alcohol.
- Talk to your teenager about alcohol in a calm,matter-of-fact way.
- Listen to your teenager.They will have their own stories and beliefs about alcohol. You need to hear these.
- Use everyday opportunities to bring up the subject, for example a storyline in a TV programme.
- Make your feelings about underage drinking very clear. Some parents suggest that talking to another adult in the company of a teenager is a useful way of getting the message across.
- Spend time with your teenager, for example if they are involved in sport go to a match together.
- Be available to talk.
2. Have family rules.
- Discuss the rules with everyone.
- Be clear about what is allowed or not allowed, for example they are not allowed attend teenage parties where alcohol is served.
- Have “coming home” times and stick to them.
- Have consequences for breaking rules and stick with them.
- Do not make empty threats or impose harsh punishments.
3. Know where your teenager is.
- Are they where they say they are? If they say they are staying overnight in a friend’s house, check.
- Will there be a supervising adult there?
- Who are they with?
- What time are they coming home at?
- How are they getting home?
- How much money do they have?
Have a routine at home that means you can see and talk with them when they come home from a night out.
4. If you drink alcohol, be responsible. Think about your own drinking.
- How much do you drink?
- Why do you drink?
- Do you need to cut down?
- What rules do you have about your drinking (for example, not drinking and driving)?
- Know how much alcohol is in the house and check it regularly.
Remember, what you do will be seen by your teenager and it will influence the messages you give them about alcohol.