Recently there’s been media coverage about parents supplying teens with easy access to alcohol fuelling an underage drinking problem. This poses some tricky questions for parents.

How do you safely introduce children in their late teens to drinking? How do we encourage them to have fun but be safe and responsible?

Our drug and alcohol services have these tips for parents:

  • Talk about alcohol as a family: Name the risks and be quite bold and blunt about them.
  • If you have children on the cusp of 18, decide in advance if you will allow them to drink on special occasions, such as their birthday, friends’ parties, Christmas etc.
  • Lead by example! Are you a responsible drinker? What lessons is your child learning from your own drinking habits?
  • Avoid recruiting young people into drinking by encouraging them to serve you.
  • Be mindful that alcohol diminishes tolerance and impacts our responses and reactions.
  • Plan in advance who will take responsibility if something goes wrong. If you allow your child to drink under parental supervision and you are drinking too, nominate another adult to look out for you both.
  • Teach your child about safe drinking habits, such as drinking water between alcoholic beverages.

“Adolescents are going to want to drink and push boundaries to take risks,’’ says Helene Nielsen, Executive Manager of Centacare’s Support Training & Intervention Services.

“Having open conversations about alcohol at home with your kids will lay a strong foundation for their decision-making when they’re out with their friends.

“If they have a clear understanding of safe drinking habits and the risks associated with alcohol, they are more likely to make strong and informed choices.’’

Australian alcohol guidelines state that not drinking is the safest option for people under 18 years.

The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey released this month found fewer 12–17 year olds were drinking alcohol and the proportion abstaining from alcohol had significantly increased, up from 72 per cent in 2013 to 82 per cent.

The report shows that the proportion of Australians drinking alcohol daily and weekly is falling, but less frequent drinking (less often than weekly) is becoming more common.