Like with most things, when it comes to alcohol parents have the most influence over their teens behaviour. So role modelling healthy drinking behaviour is key to your children making responsible decisions about alcohol.
Make sure you know the facts and laws about alcohol and can talk in a balanced and constructive way with your teen to build their understanding.
Who holds sway?
Teens are influenced by many different factors - their friends, their teachers, TV, films and the media. However, in most cases, parents have the biggest influence on their children’s behaviour and this includes how teens approach alcohol.
A 2011 study found that children who have seen their parents drunk are twice as likely to get drunk themselves. Overall it found that the behaviour of friends and family is the most common influential factor in determining how likely a young person is to drink and how often.
As the parent or carer, don't underestimate the influence of your own actions, attitudes, words and choices. These have a huge impact on your teen’s values, expectations, ideas and behaviour.
Consider what message your example sends to your teen. It’s difficult to expect them to make sensible decisions about drinking if they don't have a good role model!
Am I up to standard?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I drink safely and sociably?
- Do I drink out of habit, or do I choose to drink or not based on the occasion?
- Do I expose my teen to occasions where adults are drinking heavily?
- Has my teen seen me drunk to the point where I am not acting like my usual self?
- Does my drinking impact on my ability to perform everyday tasks?
- Do I talk openly with my teen?
Take our test to find out if your drinking is normal
Room to improve?
If you think you could do a better job as a role model, here are some simple tips:
- Stick to the daily recommended drinks guidelines - 2 standard drinks for women and 3 standard drinks for men.
- Use drinking occasions as opportunities to educate your teen.
- Make sure your teen always sees you eating with your drinks.
- Emphasise that low-alcohol options are just as enjoyable as full strength options.
- Talk about the size of a standard drink.
- Make sure your teen sees you enjoying social occasions with and without drinking, showing them that abstinence is a valid option when you're socialising.
- Practice what you preach - Don't do anything you ask your teen not to do. Never drink and drive, never drink to the point of inebriation, and always enjoy food and non-alcoholic drinks alongside alcoholic beverages.
What the experts have to say…
Graeme Dingle (ONZM, MBE)
Executive Trustee, Foundation for Youth Development - www.fyd.org.nz
Parents are significant role models because from the beginning children will copy everything you do. In later life it may be a frustration or a satisfaction to see how much they are like you!
The best way to approach the subject of drinking is to set a good example. If you can’t, be honest – young people will see through hypocrisy.
Being a good role model means setting and achieving goals; helping your children to set and achieve goals; doing things that are good for other people; being generous and loving; being optimistic; being open and honest; and above all, setting a good example.