Young people who don’t drink

Virtually no parent likes their teenager drinking alcohol. But at the same time, a lot of people say that it’s part of growing up, which is a little odd. Talking about drinking and getting drunk as some sort of phase that all young people go through is like saying it’s a natural part of their development. And it very definitely isn’t. Nowadays, over half of all ninth graders and one quarter of 2nd year upper secondary school students don’t drink at all.

Young people are drinking less and less

Both the amount consumed on each occasion and the number of teenagers who drink at all are falling. And the number who drink a fairly large amount of alcohol every month has declined too. The number of ninth graders who have been drunk before the age of 13 has fallen from 20 per cent in 2000 to just over 5 per cent in 2018. But the fact that the trend is moving in the right direction doesn’t mean that you, as a parent, can sit back and relax. Your job now is to make sure that this trend doesn’t reverse.

Sober isn’t the same as boring

Attitudes towards young people who don’t drink are often judgemental. Some people have this idea that people who choose to be sober are wimps or boring, and that they don’t know how to have a good time. It’s a good idea to talk about it with your teenager, someone who has chosen not to drink is just like anyone else, albeit perhaps a little better informed.

Not drinking is strong. It shows you have self-respect.

Jasmine, aged 16, Umeå

Double standards

Some adults remember their own teenage years as a time when you drank to be sociable and to give you the “courage” to let go. Society’s norms often say that you should drink alcohol, but that you should do so with moderation. Most of us warn our teenagers, but silently, we probably expect them to do the same sort of things we did. You might like to think about what sort of message you are sending your teenager. If, on the one hand, you ask your teenager not to drink and then, on the other hand, say that adults who don’t drink are boring, you’re sending mixed messages. And it can be very difficult for your teenager to decipher or understand what you actually mean.

Young people who say “no”

Just over 500 young people aged between 15 and 17 were asked whether it was difficult to say “no” to alcohol. 24 per cent said that it was difficult and 13 per cent said that it could be very difficult. The most common reason they give for this difficulty is peer pressure. A massive 61 per cent drink because other people do. Unfortunately, it turns into a somewhat idiotic and vicious circle when a lot of people drink because “everyone else” is doing it. A little bit of help from you, as their parent, can make it easier for your teenager to say “no”. Tell them that you found it hard to say “no” when you were young, that it’s completely OK to do so, and that having the courage to stand up for yourself often wins you a lot of respect. And you might also like to tell them that it isn’t true that all young people drink.

I'm a little scared of getting drunk. You don't want to embarrass yourself, after all.

Mikaela, aged 16, Gothenburg

Discuss your own drinking

Not every adult drinks, of course, but almost 8 out of every 10 do. Talk about your own experiences with alcohol without going into details about the sort of things that might embarrass you. Alcohol is a taboo subject in some families, but try and keep an open mind when it comes to your own drinking. And be prepared to be critized and questioned.

More to read about the same topic

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?

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

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.

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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