Parent resources

Common questions

Understanding teenagers, common questions

Should I allow my teenager to drink alcohol?

The safest option for teens is to delay drinking for as long as possible, or not drink at all. Alcohol can interfere with healthy brain development, which is still underway until at least age 25. In addition, the earlier teens start drinking, the more likely they are to do badly at school, drink heavily in their late teens, and try other drugs. Stating to drink alcohol early in adolescence has also been linked to mental health issues into adulthood, including alcohol use disorder.  

Parents can support this message and help delay teen alcohol use in a number of ways:

  • Spending time with your teen and being actively involved in their life
  • Setting clear rules and expectations about alcohol use
  • Maintaining open communication about alcohol and other drugs
  • Adapting your own alcohol use to model appropriate behaviour.

You can read more about these strategies in our factsheet here.

You can also read our tips to ensure your teenager stays safe when attending a party.

 

Understanding teenagers, common questions

Should I give my teenager alcohol?

Parents may believe that allowing their teenagers to drink at home or supplying them with alcohol is a safe way to introduce alcohol to their teenagers with the ultimate aim of reducing risky drinking behaviours as they get older. However, research has shown that this is not the case. In fact, long-term studies show that supplying teenagers with even small amounts of alcohol increases alcohol use, binge drinking and harmful alcohol-related consequences in later adolescence. Parental supply of alcohol has also been linked to increased supply of alcohol from other sources such as peers or older siblings.

Understanding teenagers, common questions

How do I talk to my child/teenager about alcohol and other drugs?

Approaching the topic of alcohol and other drugs can be challenging, but it is important to have open conversations with your child/teenager. It is best to start having these conversations early, before your child is exposed to alcohol and other drugs, so they are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to make safe and informed choices. Prepare for these conversations by familiarising yourself with the facts about alcohol and other drugs, and strategies for staying safe. Be prepared to dispel any myths and voice your rules and expectations around alcohol and other drug use. Adopting a calm and non-judgemental approach helps when discussing these topics.

Find out more information in our factsheet on talking to a young person about alcohol and other drugs.

 

Understanding teenagers, common questions

What should I teach my child/teenager about staying safe?

As parents there are a number of ways you can help keep your teen safe from the harms associated with alcohol and other drugs. Below are some suggestions:  

  • Ensure your teen feels confident about making their own choices, particularly in situations when they feel pressured to use alcohol and other drugs. Read more in our factsheet about making choices.
  • Help your teen understand the legal implications around drug use and possession. Read more in our factsheet on drug and alcohol use and the law.
  • Make sure your teen is prepared to help someone who has had a negative reaction to drug(s). Read more in our factsheet on how to help someone who has taken a drug.
  • Talk with your teen about harm minimisation strategies such as not driving or getting into the car with someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Read further about harm minimisation strategies on our website.
  • Discuss the possibility of drink spiking and steps your teens can take to reduce the likelihood of it happening.

Understanding teenagers, common questions

I’m concerned about my teenager’s alcohol or drug use, what do I do?

There are a number of signs that may indicate your teen is struggling with alcohol or drug issues; you can find a list here. If you think your teen is showing any of these signs it’s important to talk to them calmly and openly about what is happening for them, without jumping to conclusions. Starting the conversation can be really tricky, and the initial conversation may not resolve everything, but it can be an important first step, so your child trusts you and feels able to talk to you. Some strategies for starting this conversation include:

  • Be prepared for the conversation and choose your timing carefully.
  • Express concern but avoid judgement or confrontation.
  • Communicate that change is possible.
  • Let them know you are available to talk again in the future.

For more information refer to our factsheet on starting the conversation when you are concerned about drug and alcohol use. Remember that effective help is available for you and your teen. Visit this page to find more on where to get help and advice. It is also important to acknowledge that supporting your teen through challenging times can take a toll on you too. You can access support via a number of organisation including Parentline, Family Drug Support or Counselling Online.

 

Understanding teenagers, common questions

Should I allow my teenager to drink alcohol?

The safest option for teens is to delay drinking for as long as possible, or not drink at all. Alcohol can interfere with healthy brain development, which is still underway until at least age 25. In addition, the earlier teens start drinking, the more likely they are to do badly at school, drink heavily in their late teens, and try other drugs. Stating to drink alcohol early in adolescence has also been linked to mental health issues into adulthood, including alcohol use disorder.  

Parents can support this message and help delay teen alcohol use in a number of ways:

  • Spending time with your teen and being actively involved in their life
  • Setting clear rules and expectations about alcohol use
  • Maintaining open communication about alcohol and other drugs
  • Adapting your own alcohol use to model appropriate behaviour.

You can read more about these strategies in our factsheet here.

You can also read our tips to ensure your teenager stays safe when attending a party.

 

Get informed

It's important to know the facts and dispel myths about alcohol and other drugs. Positive Choices provides factual and evidence-based information you can rely on. Test your knowledge in our quiz.

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'Legal highs' are safe because they are legal.

Glossary

Heard a term/drug name & not sure what it means?

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“I have very open discussions with my teenager regarding alcohol and drug use. I encourage him to delay experimenting … however there is already pressure from his peer group.”

- Mum of a 13 and 15 year old

Evidence-based parent drug information booklet

Parent booklet

This information booklet is part of a series developed for teachers, parents and students providing evidence-based about illegal drugs, their use and effects

Looking for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander resources?

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How families can protect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers against drug related harms

How families of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people can positively influence their teenagers choices.

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Raising your kids strong: deadly activities families can do together

Read this factsheet for some deadly activities families can do together.

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Factsheet

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