Teenage drinking is a real concern for most parents and it’s the inevitable conversation every parent has to have with their children, how to make responsible choices around alcohol

In this comprehensive guide to teenage drinking developed by medical and education professionals you will find…

  1. Talking to your kids about alcohol
  2. Alcohol and the teenage brain
  3. Alcohol safety – responding in an emergency
  4. Celebrating schoolies with your children
  5. Taking a break from alcohol
  6. Setting limits around teenage drinking
  7. What the data says about teenage drinking

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Talking to your kids about alcohol

Although the frequency of alcohol consumption in young people may be lower than in the past, according to latest reports, the risk of bingeing has increased. Not only is this bad for young people’s long-term health, but these quantities of alcohol can also trigger mood disorders and an increased danger of alcohol-related injury.

Alcohol misuse is one of the leading preventable causes of death, illness and injury in Australia and around one in eight deaths of Australian’s under 25 is now attributed to alcohol consumption.

At Life Education, we believe it is vital to educate children about the dangers of alcohol in upper primary through to secondary school. We do this through our Think Twice module which empowers young Australians to make informed and responsible choices.

Talking about alcohol with your kids in four easy stepsalcohol

  1. Choose your moment
    We believe that conversations with your children about alcohol are best had during incidental learning moments (e.g., when an issue occurs in the community or is on TV). This helps position the conversation as helpful advice, not a lecture.
  2. Allow for questions
    Allow your child to ask you questions and share their thoughts. Ask them open-ended questions, to encourage more sharing. By building respect in each other’s opinions, you are reinforcing trust in your relationship.
  3. Model behaviour
    Parents have a unique opportunity to be positive role models in relation to alcohol consumption. Children have eagle eyes and learn from their environments. Be careful with your alcohol consumption and don’t be afraid to turn down the offer of alcohol in front of your children. If you are having events or family gatherings, try not to make alcohol the focus, or consider having alcohol-free events. For more strategies visit DrinkWise Australia
  4. Community support
    Find other parents trying or having conversations with their children; share your expectations and approaches to alcohol awareness with them. By engaging with other parents who are experiencing the same situation – or have done in the past – you will be able to pick up some valuable advice or mutual support.

Alcohol and the teenage brain

Did you know teenage drinking can negatively affect brain development?

Research shows the longer a young person delays the use of alcohol, the more chance the brain has to finish developing in the vital areas of speech, emotions, reasoning, learning and memory.

This is why, at Life Education we believe it is vital to educate children in upper primary through to secondary school about the dangers of alcohol, so that they are empowered to make informed and responsible choices when they are faced with the decision to drink, later in life.

There are also some things you can do as parents. Try:

Alcohol And The Teenage Brain

Following a Life Ed QLD visit to their school 86% of students said they understood the risks and would make would make safer choices with alcohol

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Alcohol safety – responding in an emergency

Preparation and knowledge provide the foundations to help you respond effectively in an emergency. Watch the video and equip yourself with expert advice from emergency services staff and Professor Gordian Fulde.

Emergency response tips

  • Ensure everyone is safe and call for help – when finding someone affected by drugs or alcohol, this should be the first response.
  • Recovery position – if the person is unresponsive or sleeping, roll them on to their side to assist their breathing and wait with them for help.
  • Stay calm – although easier said than done, staying calm helps enable communication from emergency services. According to Professor Gordian Fulde, this is also critical when parents are reacting to their children.

Expert advice from Nick Adam, an intensive care nurse, and Professor Gordian Fulde, former Director of Emergency at St Vincent’s Hospital.

Celebrating Schoolies with your children

Schoolies strikes fear into the hearts of most parents. It’s normal for parents to worry about teenage drinking – we’ve heard Schoolies horror stories. But focussing on negatives can be counterproductive and create anxiety in both us as parents and our teenagers. So, what should parents do to prepare their kids for Schoolies Week or any other teenage celebration or party?

Firstly, it is important to recognise that for the most part, our young people are making good choices. For example, rates of alcohol consumption, drug use and smoking are on the decline among teens.

We need to celebrate with our children.

Schoolies is a celebration of all the hard work and achievement of our young people. It’s a cultural rite of passage in Australia: young people emerging into the adult world. The same could be said for end of year or Christmas parties. We as parents need to have an understanding of the value of the week, and celebrate the successful young people we have raised.

Reminding our kids of their strengths, talents and resources makes young people more likely to engage these skills. It reinforces that they are already armed with the skills they need to keep themselves safe, and builds their confidence and resilience. This can work both ways. It also reminds us as parents about the wonderful job we have done and reassures us that our kids will be alright.

schoolies partySeven tips for how to celebrate with your children.

  1. Share how amazing they are! Remind them of their ability to make good decisions, display empathy and share kindness.
  2. Be positive. Try to avoid negatives like “Don’t get drunk”. Instead, opt for something more positive, “if you chose to drink, do so in moderation” (with children 18 or older).
  3. Encourage their mates. Share how great it is that they can do this with their friends while offering the advice to “arrive as a group and leave as a group”.
  4. Celebrate available support. Share designated Schoolies support services. Eg. 24hr helpline (13 QGOV), The Red Frogs and the police are obviously always available on 000.
  5. Acknowledge them. Congratulate them on their achievements and be sure they know you respect them and their judgement.
  6. Promote character strengths. Highlight their humour to navigate out of a tricky situation, quick thinking on the best course of action, or empathy and kindness to consider other perspectives.
  7. Build trust. If they do make a wrong choice, let them know you are there to help. Building trust with your children will help them to call on you in their time of need

Through our program, we are speaking with your kids about the use of drugs and alcohol and how they can affect our bodies. We do this to empower them to make better choices in their life. Find out more about this work in our Decisions module.

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Five good reasons to take a break from alcohol

When drinking becomes a habit, taking a break can be difficult. Maybe you have tried before and struggled (or failed)? A positive focus will ensure your break from alcohol is a good one.

  1. Improved mood
    Often used to unwind and relieve stress, over consumption can affect the part of our brains that control our mood. A recent Australian Centre for Addiction Research study found moods were improved after learning to modify drinking patterns to consume less alcohol.
  2. Better sleep
    When relaxed and sleepy, that nightcap seems like a good idea, but alcohol actually interferes with your sleep cycle. Drinking alcohol before bed can block REM sleep (the deepest stage of sleep), resulting in restless and waking nights.
  3. Healthier looking skin
    Alcohol dehydrates the body, including its biggest organ – our skin. A break from alcohol allows your skin the opportunity to rehydrate and recover.
  4. Financial savings
    While a trip to the bottle shop can cost you $30, $60 or more, clean water is available straight from our taps.
  5. Stronger relationships
    Do you have friends you only see when drinking? You’ll be surprised how much stronger these relationships can become when you’re not battling with a noisy pub to hear each other think. What’s more, you can swap your hangovers for a walk and breakfast the next day.

Setting limits around teenage drinking

Research tells us clearly that teens and alcohol don’t mix.

Given the dangers of alcohol, particularly when it comes to teenage drinking, and the regular news stories describing out-of-control teens, it is a good news day when data points to reductions in teen drinking.

What the data tells us about teenage drinking

The Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) highlighted that drinking among 12-17 year-olds fell from 29% in 2002 to 11% in 2011 and lower again, to 8% in 2014 (when asking about past-week consumption). It’s worth pointing out that while our alcohol consumption is dropping, so too are youth use of tobacco and illicit drugs on average.

Research, published in the scholarly journal, Addiction, shows that the trend is continuing and has been found to be true in multiple areas. In this research, participants were asked if they had consumed alcohol in the previous 12 months – certainly a much clearer indication of drinking behaviour than the ASSAD report which considered only the past week. The data told the following story:

Why is this happening?

The research suggests three key reasons for the shift in the change towards tee-totalling among our youth:

  1. There are strong social concerns about alcohol and young people. With regular stories in the news about “alcohol-fuelled violence”, or schoolies who fall from balconies, there seems to be a strong social push to emphasise the dangers of alcohol, and the need to restrict its availability.
  2. Some data points to new technologies and leisure pursuits pulling teens away from the bottle. If our kids are spending 3-6 hours a day playing games and interacting with their devices, they have less time for drinking.
  3. As Australia’s population becomes increasingly diverse, some researchers suggest that the cultural norms of our population are shifting, with youth raised by parents from non-drinking (or lighter-drinking) cultures following the examples of their parents.

Is it all good news?

If the data are accurate, we are seeing a positive public health change occurring in our youth, making them healthier and safer than previous generations. Among the stories that society is falling apart, this is wonderful news. This research gives us glimmers of hope, and suggests that in most cases, the kids are alright.

But there is more work to do, Don’t turn a night out into a nightmare, highlighted that:

What can we do to help our children?

Talk to them. Have honest, trust building conversations.

Check your facts. DrinkWise

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