How to talk to my teen

Anna and Ariya

Anna and Ariya realise that young women face some specific risks where alcohol is involved. Ariya admits she might try it on but knows Anna is serious about keeping her safe.

Amanda and Ballad

Amanda and Ballad have an ongoing dialogue about drinking. Ballad reckons they could have had the talk earlier while Amanda says it’s about the world Ballad lives in, not her teen experiences.

Sue and Aston

Sue and Aston say two-way trust is important to keep communication open. As a former bar manager Sue’s seen what too much drink can do to people and Aston doesn’t want to let her down.

Young people are naturally curious about alcohol - they see people drinking on the news, in movies, and in real life - and they want to know more. Talking about it early on will help your teen to understand alcohol and its effects, and make sensible choices about drinking in the future.

Starting the conversation

Television

Try to avoid forcing the issue - it’s better to wait until the subject comes up naturally. You could raise it at dinner time, if the adults are having a drink with their meal; after special occasions where people have been drinking, like a wedding or birthday party; use alcohol-related news stories, TV storylines, documentaries; or wait until your teen asks you questions about drinking.

Do whatever feels comfortable for you and your family, but ideally you should discuss the issue before your teen starts experimenting with drinking or faces pressure from their peers.

If there is another adult your teen often turns to for advice, discuss your views on drinking with them, so you are both singing from the same songsheet.

What should I say?

You need to aim for a balance: warn them of the dangers and make them aware of the laws; but also explain that adults can safely enjoy moderate social drinking.

Above all else you should explain the impact of alcohol on the body and mind, and that even small amounts will affect their ability to make rational judgements and sensible decisions.

By focusing on the facts you will give your teen the knowledge to avoid the dangers associated with drinking too much.

Discuss the pros and cons objectively together

How should I say it?

Try to avoid lecturing or scare tactics, and instead discuss the pros and cons objectively together. Be ready to debate some of the issues this raises, and listen to your teen’s point of view.

Use language your teen understands and examples that are relevant to them. Like most of us, young people won't find long-term consequences compelling, so focus on some of the immediate impacts alcohol can have.

Trust them

Trusting your teen means they'll feel they can tell you the truth (especially about unacceptable or risky things), and you won't get angry or judge them. Being willing to listen to their side of the story, and talking through the other options, will help them to make sensible choices in the future.

Trust is essential to open and honest communication. If your teen feels safe discussing difficult issues with you, then they'll talk to you when they need to and listen to what you have to say.

Knowing me, knowing you

It’s really important that children understand the rules, but it’s equally important that you understand their world and the challenges they are facing as they cross the bridge from childhood to adulthood.

Peer pressure can be enormously stressful. In setting your family rules about drinking, demonstrate that you understand how this might set them apart from their peers.

Build their self-confidence by listening to them, and reinforcing positive behaviour with praise. Confident teens are more likely to make independent decisions about drinking and not be influenced by their peer group.