Talking about alcohol

With some teenagers, it’s easy to talk about anything and everything. Others simply shut off as soon as a parent tries to raise a subject. And not all parents are the same, either. But children who have a close relationship with their parents and who know what their parents expect seem to do best.   

BUILD A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP

A close relationship isn’t something you build, over the course of an afternoon. It involves building confidence and trust over time, and accepting the relationship on the young person’s terms. A lot of parents feel that their teenagers are shutting them out of their lives, as if they’re no longer necessary. But that’s not actually the case. Parents are just as important as they ever were. 

Photo: Pablo Frisk

TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING

A close relationship is often founded on making it a habit to talk about anything and everything – from how their day went at school to what they think about something. Basically, about anything that shows you’re taking an interest. And this usually makes talking about alcohol and other subjects that may be a little sensitive, easier and more natural too.  

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

Johanna, aged 15, Umeå

BE PERSONAL

Show that you care and that you’re interested in what your child is thinking and experiencing. You can absolutely talk about your own experiences, but you don’t have to go into detail. It shows that you know what it can be like and that you understand. 

WORRIED? TELL THEM WHY

Simply forbidding things is seldom effective. If children are going to listen to what you say, they need to understand why you’re saying it. Explain how it feels to be a parent and what you’re worried about. At the same time, it’s important that your child knows that there are boundaries and where they lie. 

AVOID CROSS-EXAMINATIONS

Try to not make your teenager’s attitude toward alcohol a big thing. Talk about it a bit from time to time and show them that you understand what it’s like when their friends are trying alcohol out, for example. That’ll help your child to talk about their own experiences. And don’t assume that all young people, or your particular teenager, drink. But if you are worried, tell them that and trust that your child is listening to your concerns. Try to avoid ”cross-examining” your child – all that will do is create a distance between you. 

REASSURE THAT IT’S OK TO TELL YOU THINGS

It’s important that your teenager understands that you’re there for them, whatever happens. Children need to feel that they can be honest without their parents getting angry or criticising them. This might sound obvious, but it can actually be one of the hardest things about being a parent.

Try to show appreciation when your child tells you something, even if you don’t like what you hear. Doing so increases the chances of your child sharing with you again in the future.

"Listening and showing appreciation when your child tells you things can build trust and confidence that makes it easier to talk about subjects like alcohol".

Albin Isacsson, Licenced Psychologist and Doctoral Student, Karolinska Institutet.

THINGS YOU’D RATHER NOT HEAR

Your teenager might tell you about things you wish your child hadn’t experienced. Start by showing them that you appreciate them telling you. Then explain how you feel.

Try to stay calm and clear, so that your child knows that you care and that they understand where you stand. It can be hard staying calm sometimes, and it’s OK to be sad or get upset for a little while – your child will understand that it’s because you care. 

More to read about the same topic

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

When parents are not around

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