Should you buy alcohol for them?

A lot of children ask their parents to buy alcohol for them. And as a parent it can feel hard to refuse. Most parents want the best for their children, and would maybe like to show their teenager that they trust them. Or perhaps they think that doing this will prevent their kids from approaching illegal alcohol dealers. Sadly, it seldom works out that way. Here are some arguments that you might find helpful to tackle the situation.

TEENAGERS SAY IT’S WRONG

Surveys show that the majority of teenagers think that it’s wrong for parents to buy alcohol for their children. It’s not uncommon for teenagers to nag sometimes, to see where the boundaries lie, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want their parents to give in to them. Because if you do, your teenager might well start to wonder what you actually mean when you warn them about the harms of drinking alcohol but, at the same time, are willing to buy it for them. Setting rules and sticking to them is a way of showing you care. Breaking them can be interpreted as meaning that you don’t care.

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who'll buy it for you. All they want is the money - they don't care that you're too young.

Liv, aged 15, Gothenburg

IT’S ILLEGAL

Selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 20 is, as you probably know, prohibited – unless they’re being served in a restaurant or buying “folköl” (mid-strength beer), where the minimum age is 18. Anyone buying alcohol for minors can be fined or imprisoned – it’s the person supplying a minor with alcohol who commits the crime, not the minor for whom it is bought.

IT’S NO GUARANTEE THAT THEY’LL DRINK LESS – QUITE THE REVERSE.

A lot of adults think that they’ll have  better  control of what their teenagers are drinking if they  supply them with the alcohol. They think that a few ciders are better than a bottle of spirits. But teenagers’ drinking is usually more about getting drunk than about sipping a cider. A teenager who’s given a couple of bottles of beer or alcopop by their parents is unlikely to be satisfied with that. It’s more likely to be a bonus, given that they’re planning to drink anyway. There is no evidence to show that young people avoid contacting illegal dealers, for example, just because their parents have given them a few beers.

OLDER SIBLINGS AND FRIENDS

Many young people have older friends, siblings, or other adults who’ll buy alcohol for them. And it can be hard for them to refuse, even though most young adults believe it’s wrong. This is where you, as a parent, can make a difference. Talk to the over-20s in your child’s circle and help them say no. Tell them that you expect them to be adult enough to take responsibility. Together, you can present a united front.

EVERYONE ELSE’S PARENTS ARE NOT SAYING OK

Many parents are worried that their children will be left out. It’s common for young people to believe that others are allowed to do things that they, themselves, are not. It’s a concept that’s called “majority misunderstanding”. In reality, the vast majority of teens have the same discussions with their parents, and most parents are just as worried that their children will be excluded from the group. The answer is to talk to other parents and agree on what goes.

More to read about the same topic

Yes or no?

The clearer you communicate your expectations, the easier it is for your teenager to take a stand or do what you say. Also, think about what sort of message and values you’re conveying to your child.

Useful contacts and more info

It can sometimes be good to talk to someone who knows a bit more about teenagers and alcohol, or about anything else, for that matter.

If you want to do more

There’s a lot you can do to support and be there for teenagers. Maybe you can take part in night-time patrols, or make it easier for them to say “no”, or help promote a smarter approach to alcohol in some other way.

Other important topics to read about

Teenagers and alcohol

There are many considerations that can easily arise when your child becomes a teenager. But first and foremost: how do young people think about drinking themselves? And why is it more dangerous to drink alcohol in adolescence than as an adult?

Take responsibility

Maybe you sometimes feel pretty helpless as a parent. But there’s a lot you can do. As always showing that you care, that you’re there and that you are happy to listen. And often it’s important to be clear about what you expect of your teenager.

If parents are not around

Festivals, home parties and trips abroad are examples of situations where adults are rarely present. There are some pitfalls that you, as a parent, should be aware of and that you can teach your teenager how to handle.

The teenage years

The teenage years are a very special time in your child’s life. Teenagers are navigating the frontier lands between childhood and adulthood and there are a lot of new things to handle: school, friends, being allowed to stay out late, sex, parties and – not least – alcohol.

Teenager’s drinking habits

Not only is it illegal to buy alcohol for young people, but most adults think that alcohol is something teenagers should be avoiding. So where are teenagers getting their alcohol? How much do they drink? And what sort of problems do young people experience in connection to alcohol?

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