Why do teenagers want to drink?
Society sends out really clear signals to kids. What is the legal age in Australia to start drinking – where you can go to a bar and buy a drink without breaking the law?
When we turn 18, we instantly go from being a child to an adult. We all of a sudden change our cloaks and can do all sorts of things that the big people (Adults) get to do. Now this doesn’t mean our brains, or our bodies are ready for it or ever will be, but there has to be a number, which in Australia is 18, when we allow our kids to become adults.
My eldest turned 18 whilst finishing his last year of high school. So here he was 18, doing year 12 and driving, able to go to the pub and drink a beer if he chose to drink a beer. He could do all sorts of things – even get married without my permission, yet his school required a note from me to allow him to go to the dentist.
It’s exciting to enter an age where you are considered all grown up and doing grown up things like drinking. Having those around you who are adults and who drink makes us all see things differently to the world where alcohol doesn’t exist.
The middle east – alcohol is against the law. Yes, you can buy it on the black market, but it is not something children in that part of the world have at their dinner table. If something is acceptable to a society then we don’t see harm in it. If you see something that is unacceptable, the more you are exposed to seeing it the more desensitised you become.
In Australia – alcohol is everywhere, and it is really easy to get. A drunk teenager at a party isn’t fun, but if you have a bunch of drunk teenagers be prepared.
As a parent, my first exposure was our 15-year-old wanting to go to a 16-year-old birthday party where alcohol was going to be present. It was to be supervised and well monitored. Attendee’s parents had to approve, and the parents of the party holder tried to keep it safe for our teenage drinkers.
We drove three teenagers home with one being heavily intoxicated. This teen came from a family where alcohol was heavily consumed, and his father provided him with too much beer. Our teens took 4 cans of UDL and returned home with 2 cans unopened.
It can be difficult not to appear as the party pooper and keep your teenager safe and healthy, without stifling their independence. However, setting clear expectations in this situation worked and the two teens we were responsible for enjoyed their can of UDL which they sat on all night.
Alcohol can make your teenager feel like an adult, with this being the driver for the teens to want to drink, impress their mates and strut their stuff. However, remember this is only one reason and there are often other underlying issues around self-worth, trauma, mental health and anger.
Alcohol effects our nervous systems
How much alcohol would it take to get a 5-year-old drunk, a 10-year-old, a 15-year-old and so on. The point is in our early years our bodies are developing and alcohol is in fact a substance that effects our systems in the way we act. Alcohol changes us.
Years ago, mothers had been known to dip their baby’s pacifier (dummy) into alcohol to soothe a fussy baby. It worked and the baby drifted off to sleep. This indicates that alcohol changes our system.
I am not a medical professional and there is much information and misinformation out there to feast on about the wrongs and rights of alcohol.
If you are aware of your child or teenager being bullied, not coping for whatever reason encourage dialogue. It isn’t always easy for a parent to speak with their often, angry teen about certain things, but this is where a trusted intermediary can step in. Parents often don’t know anything in the eyes of their kids.
If you find your alcohol is disappearing from the liquor cupboard, then don’t have it in the house. Lead by example and get rid of it.
How can you ask your child to do something you are doing under their nose? If they see those around them exhibiting a certain behaviour, they will most likely follow. Monkey see – monkey do.
If you believe your teenager is abusing alcohol or has a substance abuse of any kind reach out and get help. The time to act is before the problem grows and gets out of hand.
Most parents and carers want the most and the best for their offspring. You bring this new life into the world and you don’t want it to be poisoned or crushed – you want this life to thrive and grow. You want this child to be the best he or she can be. The decisions you make in your own behaviours are the decisions our own children will often replicate.
When should you allow your teenager to start drinking alcohol?
Hopefully your teen won’t test you. Those teenagers with a healthy interest in the way they look and feel are better equipped to handle the pressures of growing up and the challenges. Sport has long been associated with a way to keep your kids busy and away from all the “nasties” out there. But these days sport is often associated with drugs and many of our sporting heroes have sent out the wrong message on alcohol and drugs.
I recall years ago smoking was the topic of conversation – fortunately tobacco does not seem as prevalent as it once was amongst our youth. However, substance abuse is growing and as the gatekeepers – us as parents need to ensure teens and alcohol don’t develop an unhealthy relationship.
If your teenager requires professional help – reach out and speak with your medical professional.
The ATO allows the release of super under compassionate grounds for mental health around addiction. A parent may be eligible to apply for and release money from their own super to cover the cost of treatment for their child.
Written by Susan Hargres