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• Commonly Asked Questions •

Commonly Asked Questions

We give you the answer to some commonly asked questions around drugs, alcohol, talking with teens, social media, parties and keeping your family safe. See what the experts have to say about the latest research and get tips and perspectives from parents who are raising teenagers.

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What you need to know to help strengthen family relationships and protect teens from alcohol and drug use.

Alcohol and the teenage brain

Research has shown that most human brains take around 25 years to fully develop. This means that a teenager’s brain is going through some major constructions as they develop and fine tune important pathways and systems. Introducing alcohol during this critical period of development can cause major damage and change the wiring of a teenager’s brain. While research tells us that alcohol can be detrimental to a teenagers developing brain it is not clear how much alcohol it takes to cause the damage. For this reason, national guidelines recommend that for under 18’s the safest choice is to delay drinking of alcohol for as long as possible.

Alcohol intoxication on the brain causes short and long-term damage to an adolescent’s:

Brain functionality

How well the brain works

Brain structure

The physical makeup of the brain

Alcohol intoxication on the brain causes short and long-term damage to an adolescent’s:

These are the areas that continue to develop during adolescence. Click on the markers for more information.

For teens, drinking no alcohol at all is the safest option to help their brain develop the best

Why do teenagers drink?

Peer pressure

The number one reason that teens drink is peer pressure. The desire to ‘fit in’ and social pressures from peers are often hard for teens to ignore. When it is someone in their peer group offering the alcohol simply saying ‘no’ is not always easy.

Prepare your teen for peer pressure by coming up with answers they feel comfortable saying in situations where they feel pressured to drink.

Self-medication

The teenage years are often highly emotional and overwhelming. Some teens may use alcohol to cope with academic or social stress or to alleviate feelings of anxiety or depression. Healthier alternatives include maintaining a healthy diet, participating in regular physical activity, getting a good night’s sleep, practising mindfulness techniques and confiding in a close friend or adult.

However, sometimes these home remedies may not be sufficient and your teen should seek professional support to help them overcome anxiety and depression.

Misinformation

As teens navigate their way through life, the influential environment (friends, social media, advertising) heavily influences their drinking perceptions. Teens often believe that more people their age are drinking alcohol than actually are. They may also get misinformation from various sources such as friends who assure them that drinking alcohol is perfectly safe. Minimise the risk of misinformation by educating your teen on the facts about alcohol use and its effects on teenagers.

Because it’s fun

If a teen is bored they are more likely to consider alcohol usage as a fun option. Not only does alcohol give teens something to occupy their time with but it provides a social activity where they can interact and bond with their friends. Have your teen consider what else they could do for fun besides drinking. Most cities have a range of free activities, social groups and sporting clubs for teenagers to join.

Rebellion

Teenagers often like to push boundaries and may choose to drink as a way to rebel against rules.

What can you do if your teen is going through a rebellious streak?

For confidence

A major appeal of alcohol is its ability to give an otherwise shy or self-conscious teenager the confidence and courage to do things they would not normally be comfortable doing, such as dancing at a party or talking to someone of the opposite sex.

So how can you help your teen to find courage and confidence without alcohol?

  • Be a role model when it comes to self-confidence
  • Encourage your teen to try new things
  • Teach your teen to develop healthy self-talk and positive mantras
  • Praise and encourage your teens efforts and accomplishments

Curiosity

Teens may begin experimenting with alcohol simply because they want to know what it feels like. Curiosity and experimentation is a normal part of teenage behaviour and having discussion about the dangers of alcohol can help to diminish its attractiveness.

Establishing family expectations

Does your teen know what your attitude towards underage drinking is? Do they know what you expect of their behaviour and what they in turn can expect of you as their parent? Are they clear on what the consequence of any misbehaviour is?

Developing and communicating clear alcohol focussed family expectations with your teen is a good way to ensure that they know exactly how you feel about underage drinking without any hinting or assuming.

For teens, drinking no alcohol at all is the safest option to help their brain develop the best

The family agreement

Creating a family agreement with your teen is a great way to make your expectations regarding alcohol clear. We all parent differently and what works for one family is not guaranteed to work for another. Take the ideas in the template provided and customise them to suit your individual teen and unique family environment. Involve your teen in a discussion around expectations and deciding on suitable rewards and/or consequences. You may choose to use the template as a written agreement or to simply guide verbal discussions and oral agreements around family expectations.

Consider the conversation

As a parent it is important to have open lines of communication with your child. Having high quality conversations with your teen not only strengthens family relationships but makes it easier for them to come to you in times of trouble. As your teen matures and is exposed to new and exciting experiences it is only natural for them to become curious about alcohol and alcohol specific discussion are important.

Consider the content

What can we talk about?

  • Give them a good reason not to drink. Explain the risks, effects and potential harms of alcohol.
  • Consider their opinion. Ask what your teen’s views on alcohol are.
  • Prepare your teen for potential drinking situations. Discuss how to say no and what responsible drinking looks like.
  • Make your position clear. Discuss the expectations you have of your teenager.

Consider the do’s and don’t’s

What is your relationship with alcohol?

As a parent you are an influential role model for your teenager and what you do is often much more powerful than what you say. From a young age your teen has been paying attention to when, how much and what you drink.

If you are interested, take a quick self-assessment quiz to understand more about your current level of alcohol consumption and how it may be affecting your health and wellbeing.

If you are worried about your alcohol consumption contact your GP or relevant support service to further discuss your current pattern of drinking.

How much do you know?

Grab your teen and test your knowledge.

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