Talking it through

Did you know?
82 per cent of Australians believe it's harmful to give alcohol to anyone under the age of 18

Deciding not to allow alcohol

Delaying the age at which you allow your child to drink is one of the best strategies you can use to protect your teenager's health and wellbeing, now and into the future.

And you're not alone. Many, many parents decide not to allow their children to drink - and their children benefit. Research shows that parents with liberal attitudes towards alcohol are more likely to have children who drink at risky levels. Other research tells us that children whose families refused to serve alcohol to them at home were less likely to drink in other situations.

But of course, your decision is just the first step. You need to think about talking to your child - and to other adults in your child's life - about your decision and your reasons for it.

Talking to your child

  • Check out the tips for talking and tips for listening that are listed on the Talking about alcohol page.
  • Explain to your child that drinking alcohol is against the law until they're 18, unless you've served it to them with a substantial meal, or they've given their consent to someone else to serve it.
  • Talk about what research says about how many young people do drink, and how many drink at risky levels - see the Young people and drinking section.
  • Let your teen know that you won't be giving other people permission to serve them alcohol, and explain how you'll handle those conversations.
  • Remember to renegotiate the rules as your child gets older - the same rules may not work as well for a 17 year old as they did for a 13 year old, for example.
  • Agree on some strategies with your child about how they'll deal with other people's drinking. Be clear that you're always happy for them to call you or someone they trust if they find themselves in a situation where they are scared or intimidated, or feel like they're at risk.
  • Discuss how they might respond to someone who offers them alcohol, and let them know that some people might be persistent. Make it clear that their decision to stick with your family's rules is their own business, and not their friend's.

Talking to other parents and adults

  • Be clear that you're talking about a decision you've made about your own child, and that you're not judging the decisions they make about their children.
  • However, be clear that you will not give them permission to serve alcohol to your child - and if you need to, emphasise that Victorian law requires that you give your permission.
  • Let them know that your child is aware of your decision, and that your child is clear on what the consequences will be if they drink anyway.

What's next?

Even if you're sure that your child is clear about your decision, it's a good idea to check in with them once in a while to make sure that you can answer any questions or concerns they have. You may also need to keep an eye on what your teenager is up to. Research indicates that adolescents are more likely to misuse alcohol when adults are not around. If they are going out, you should:

  • ask where they'll be, what they'll be doing and who they'll be with
  • agree a time to come home, and let them know you expect them to stick to it
  • make sure they've got arrangements in place to get home safely
  • ask them to contact you if their plans change - or agree a time at which you'll check in with them.

You might think that many teenagers will hate being monitored like this - and certainly, some will. But lots of teenagers appreciate any sign that their parents are concerned about their safety and wellbeing. Keeping an eye on a young person doesn't have to involve being tough on them. In fact, if you are harsh or strict, you may be increasing the risk that your young person will misuse alcohol.

If you find out that your teenager is drinking, and you need more help, see the info we've included the Help! My teen's drinking anyway section.