A CHANGING YOUTH CULTURE?
There’s been a steady reduction in youth drinking over the past two decades, both in Sweden and in many other countries. Young people who don’t drink do better in many areas in life than young people who do. They also report feeling better, getting better grades, and suffering fewer physical and mental problems.
There is no single reason why young people today are drinking less than they did 20 years ago. Studies point to, amongst other things, changes in family relationships, new social norms, increased online socialising, strong health ideals, and the fact that saying no to alcohol has become more accepted.
Many young people also say that they feel a pressure to be successful and in control – feelings that might contribute to their increased avoidance of alcohol.
I’m a little scared of getting drunk. You don’t want to embarrass yourself, after all.
Mikaela, aged 16, Gothenburg
SOBER ISN’T BORING
Some people are prejudiced: they regard people who don’t drink alcohol as wimps or boring. Talk to your child and tell them that this isn’t true: being able to say no is a sign of strength, and it’s common for people not to drink alcohol.
Actually, only a minority of young people think it’s OK when their friends get drunk. A 2019 study investigated Swedish ninth graders’ attitudes to the things their friends do. Fewer than half (40 per cent of girls and 45 per cent of boys) said that it was OK for a friend to get drunk.
"Not drinking is strong. It shows you have self-respect".
Jasmine, aged 16, Umeå
Many adults remember their own teenage years as a time when they drank to socialise and to let go. Plus society’s norms often say that you should drink, just not to excess. Most of us tell our teenagers not to drink, despite possibly expecting them to do what we did.
Think about how you talk about alcohol with your child. If you ask your teenager not to drink but, at the same time, give them the impression that alcohol is part of “enjoying yourself”, you might be guilty of sending mixed and confusing messages.
”Parents play an important role in the teenage years. Talking about alcohol and how you want things to be in your family is something most teenagers appreciate. Because it shows that you care and can help them feel more confident in tackling different situations.”
Anna Karlsson, County Coordinator for alcohol and drug issues, Västernorrland County Administrative Board.
HELP THEM SAY NO
Discuss the issues with your child and give them the arguments they need to say no to alcohol. Talk about the risks associated with drinking when young and remind them that the ability to say no is a sign of strength. It may also be a good idea to share what you thought about alcohol when you were young.