Are you the world’s expert on your child? Knowing how your child will react in certain circumstances is important in understanding how to manage your child’s risk against alcohol and other drug-related harms.
Young people don’t have the experience of the world that adults have. They are still developing physically, emotionally and cognitively. That means:
- They are less able to perceive risks.
- They are still trying to work out their place in the world.
Before your child has their first alcoholic drink they will have formed attitudes and expectations about alcohol from parents, family, friends and media.
How much they are influenced by others is important when weighing up the risk of alcohol and drugs. Think about how susceptible your child is to the influence of peers and the attitudes and behaviours of their friends.
There is no set formula for having The Other Talk, but here is some guidance to make the conversation easier:
1- Get the facts
There are a lot of myths about alcohol and other drugs. Use evidence-based sources like the Know Your Facts section of this website to give your child the most accurate information.
2- Be clear in your beliefs
Based on the evidence, clarify your view of alcohol and other drugs. For example, it’s up to you whether your child drinks or not, but when making your decision consider the Australian alcohol guidelines, which state that the safest option for children and people under 18 is not to drink. The guidelines show evidence that parental monitoring and family rules about alcohol do reduce the likelihood of young people drinking.
3- Look for opportunities to start the conversation
Keep the conversation relaxed. Use relevant topics on the TV or radio and events as an opportunity to talk about alcohol and other drugs. It’s best to start talking about these issues early. Try to have the conversation in a quiet and comfortable environment e.g. the family dinner table. It’s never too early and there is no limit to the number of conversations you can have.
4- Ask questions
Find out your child’s views about alcohol and other drugs. Talk about what they would do in different situations.
5- Make sure they understand the harms
Using the Know Your Facts section on this website, make sure your child has the right information about alcohol and other drugs and correct any myths. Talk about the benefits as well as the harms of different drugs and why someone might use them. Don’t exaggerate the harms as it will make you sound less credible.
6- Set rules and consequences
Explain your views on alcohol and other drugs and use the facts to back them up. Let your child know your rules and the consequences for breaking them. Help them develop ways of getting out of situations where their friends are using alcohol or other drugs and they don’t want to be embarrassed by not taking part.
You don’t need to tell your child about your past experiences with alcohol and drugs. It’s important to be their parent not their friend. However, if you drink responsibly as a parent your child is more likely to do the same later in life. Role modelling responsible drinking means:
- Following the Australian alcohol guidelines – no more than two standard drinks a day to reduce long-term harm and no more than four drinks on any one occasion to avoid immediate alcohol-related injury.
- Keeping track of how many standard drinks you’ve had, even when you aren’t driving.
- Showing you don’t always need a drink to have fun or wind down.
- Demonstrating that you can refuse a drink from a friend if you don’t feel like it or you’ve had enough.
Help and support
If you believe your child has a drug problem, there is assistance available. Browse the Australian Drug Foundation’s recommended resources on coping with a family member using alcohol or other drugs. You can also call an Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) in your state or territory:
Australian Capital Territory
02 6207 9977
New South Wales
Sydney: 02 9361 8000
Regional NSW: 1800 422 599
1800 131 350
1800 177 833
1300 131 340
1800 811 994
Information: 1300 85 85 84
Counselling and referral (DirectLine): 1800 888 236
Perth: 08 9442 5000
Regional WA: 1800 198 024
Find other help and support services in your state.
Surviving Adolescents details common sense strategies to assist parents living with young people and is by one of Australia’s leading authorities on teenage behaviour, Michael Carr-Gregg. The book covers difficult topics such as sexuality, risky behaviour, laziness and study problems as well as how to defuse conflicts and set limits. Available from the Australian Drug Foundation Shop.
Listen to one of the Australian Drug Foundation’s podcasts, including Michael Carr-Gregg talking about young people and alcohol, and young people and cannabis.