Parental tips to prevent underage drinking

With the festive season setting in, along with the possibility of underage drinking from the frenzy of the celebrations, the South African Breweries (SAB) is empowering parents with the tools to speak to the youth about why they should wait before having that first sip of alcohol.

Research shows that allowing kids to consume alcohol early does not prevent later abuse, something that lenient parents are advised to remember. Teenagers are vulnerable to experimenting, but underage alcohol consumption can have severe physical and psychological effects.

Teenagers who drink are far more likely to try illegal drugs. The same research shows that 67 percent of teens who drink before the age of 15 will go on to use illegal drugs. They are 22 times more likely to use marijuana and 50 times more likely to use cocaine.

Engaging with various stakeholders including Johannesburg Clinical Psychologists Sandra Brownrigg and Claire O’Mahony from the Sandton Psychology and Wellness Centre, has given SAB better insight as to why teenagers drink and how adults can help guide them.

Here is some practical advice for parents and adults on how to prevent underage drinking from taking place on their watch:

Establish your own healthy drinking habits

“It is important that parents take into consideration that young children entering into adolescence are at the stage in their life where they are trying to establish how they fit into society and can be easily persuaded,” said O’Mahony.

She said it’s vital that parents, therefore, establish healthy drinking habits and explained the impact of underage drinking on young bodies to their children. “Enforce the importance of the legal age for alcohol consumption and practice healthy drinking and balance in front of your children. There should not be a ‘Do what I say and not what I do’ practice in place’ – consume responsibly in front of your children.”

Parents must be role models

Everything in moderation is an important lesson to learn and this is especially the case with alcohol, said Brownrigg. “Binge drinking is typically experimented among teenagers and not knowing their limits is a difficult lesson to have to learn.”

Brownrigg said adults often say: ‘I’ve had a bad day, I need a drink’ and that this teaches children that alcohol is a coping mechanism. “This can be seen to be unhealthy and confusing to a child when their role models are only consuming alcohol during hard times.”

Communicate the dangers of underage drinking

“Talk to your teens about the many effects of alcohol consumption on a young person’s brain. Explain that it can impact long-term memory, cause liver damage, stunt growth and even disturb the hormonal balance necessary for normal development of organs, muscles and bones,” O’Mahoney said.

Establish boundaries and consequences if trust is abused

Brownrigg advises discussing the issue of alcohol in a non-judgmental tone so that the child does not feel interrogated or too scared to open up and discuss what is on their mind. Establish boundaries and ensure they know what the consequences will be if they break those rules.

Click here for more details.

Sipho Siso

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