Talking about alcohol

With some teenagers, it’s easy to talk about anything and everything. With others, they simply mutter something inaudible and shut themselves in their room as soon as you open your mouth. And not all parents are the same either, come to that. But there is something that’s true of all children, whatever they or you are like: children that have a close relationship with their parents and who know what their parents expect are the ones who do best.

Build up a close relationship

A close relationship isn’t something you build, just like that, over the course of an afternoon on the sofa. It’s more about building confidence and trust and about accepting the relationship on the young person’s terms. A lot of parents feel that their teenagers are shutting them out of their lives, but that’s not actually the case. They still need their parents as much as they ever did.

Be personal

The best way to win your teenager’s confidence is to show them that you care, that you’re interested in what they think and what they’re going through. You can talk about your own experiences, but you don’t have to go into detail: it’s enough to tell them that you understand.

A teenager will listen to an adult who knows something and is happy to talk about it. It’s as simple as that. They need the support that comes from the safety and security that an adult can provide and which they, themselves, lack.

Bengt Grandelius, Reg. Psychologist and family therapist

Tell them why you’re worried

Simply forbidding things and telling children that they’re not allowed to do something is not an effective approach. If they’re going to listen to what you say, they need to understand why you’re saying it. Explain why you’re worried, how it feels to be a parent, and what you’re afraid of. At the same time, knowing that boundaries exist and where they lie is obviously important to your child, and reassuring too.

Avoid cross-examinations

Try not to make a big thing of your teenager’s attitude towards alcohol, or to worry yourself sick about it. Talk a bit about it from time to time and show them that you understand what it’s like when their friends are pushing them to try it. That’ll help your child to talk about it on their own accord. And don’t assume that all young people, or your particular teenager, drink. But if you are worried, air your concerns together with your teenager, rather than launching some kind of cross-examination – all that will do is create a distance between you. And trust that your teenager will listen to your concerns.

Reassure them that it’s ok to tell you things

It’s important that your teenager understands that you will still love him or her, whatever happens. Children need to feel that they can be honest without their parents losing their temper or throwing a fit. This might sound obvious, but it can actually be one of the hardest things about being a teenager’s parent. On the one hand, you’re worried about what might happen and really would prefer not to hear about drunken parties. On the other hand, you’d probably like to know what’s going on in your child’s life. But you have to be prepared to handle the truth and the child has to feel that he or she did the right thing by telling you.

My paremts don't talk to me about alcohol very much. The only thing they've said is, "Of course, you know it's wrong."

Adrian, aged 15, Umeå

When you hear things you’d rather not hear

When your child tells you what’s happening, you might get to learn about things that you’d really rather not have known. Sit down with your child and tell them how worried you are. Try and stay calm and determined, so that your child knows where they stand. Sometimes, that’s just not possible, and you have to allow yourself to shout or cry for a while. But even if you don’t always manage to stay calm, your child will understand that you care.

Discuss everything under the sun

The basis of a close relationship is often the fact that you are in the habit of talking about everything under the sun. It might be how their day went at school, what your child thinks about something, or how their friends are doing. Basically, anything at all that shows that you’re interested. If you’re in the habit of discussing things, talking about alcohol and other drugs without it being such a big thing becomes a lot easier.

More to read about the same topic

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.

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?

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.

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.

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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