Teens and parties

30th Mar 2019 by Matt Claridge

It’s going to happen. There’s no denying it. A matter of when, not if. Sooner or later.

I remember them as a teenager. They were mad – although I didn’t think so at the time. Me, with friends from school or sport, drinking, getting crazy and doing things I wouldn’t do if I hadn’t been drinking. Probably fairly typical.

Actually, to my surprise – no, not that typical. The majority of teenagers don’t drink at parties. And of those that did then, or do now, the majority don’t get drunk. But what we remember and hear about are the drinking episodes – and in doing so, we glamourise those memories, those drinking episodes.

I’m a parent of two teenagers. I drink alcohol.

As a teenager I used to go to parties, with my beers (six and sometimes 12), with the intention of getting drunk. Party animals were revered and those that could handle their drink were ‘hard as’.

Plenty of parents are comfortable with this experience playing out for their children. But with the backdrop of mental health, social media, brain development, social skills, drink spiking, physical or sexual assault, it’s made me think twice about the experience I want for my teenagers.

Here’s what we know: alcohol significantly impairs brain development until age 23 – yep it fries those brain cells. And Mum and Dad, believe it or not, are role models for the values and attitudes teenagers form towards alcohol and their habits later in life.

Alcohol is a legal drug, widely available to those 18 and over. Standard drink information tells us that the average human can process one standard drink per hour, and after that our liver and other organs are affected. When alcohol is abused, it has a tendency to cause harm on oneself and others. 

But is alcohol itself the problem or our attitude to it and ‘why’ we, or our teenagers drink? Sending your son or daughter off to a party with a six pack of beer or bottle of wine, is kind of like going for a swim at Piha in jeans, outside the flags in stormy surf. There are a lot more risks than benefits.

As parents, we can choose to shape what’s normal in our teenagers’ lives. This will impact and ripple through their social circle too. Before you even start the drinking conversation, ask yourself, what type of drinker am I? (Take our ‘Is My Drinking Normal’ test to find out). Consider why you drink – to celebrate, to socialise, to escape stress, to get tipsy/drunk?

Already millennials are using information sources to research the pros and cons of drinking alcohol, long before they start to drink. This is a conversation we need to get ahead of, and it simply starts with assessing the messages that are being given by our own behaviour.  

Normal is normal and kids absorb our drinking.