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Parents the missing link in teen alcohol abuse


Parents help teens with alcohol abuseThe growing incidence of teenage drinking is a baffling problem. Its evolution seems a mystery and its effects profound. Many theories have been put forward as well as countless strategies put in place.

But are we missing the most important link- What about parents? What part do we play in all of this, and can we help to turn things around? Parents hold the key in helping treat our epidemic of teenage drinking.

Our changing teen drinking culture has not happened overnight. Its progression has been insidious and largely unchallenged. It has also thrived due to a ‘social disease’ that has affected parenting on a large scale.

Symptoms Include:

  • Denial of the potentially dangerous effects of alcohol on teens.
  • Difficulty in saying NO due to feelings of guilt and overwhelming peer group pressure.
  • An intense fear that our children will not like us if we set boundaries- even if they are intended for their safety.
  • A false perception that our intelligent ‘Y’ generation of teenagers are wiser than us and able to make the best decisions regarding alcohol.
  • Loss of connectivity and support between parents.
  • Progressive burn-out and feeling disempowered with parenting.


Treatment is complicated due to resistance to change, difficulties with parents feeling empowered and negative attitudes. Treatment is aimed towards remission and includes a crucial injection of government policy, and clear guidelines to aid recovery. Vigorous education and awareness campaigns are also needed for a long term maintenance program.

Without the growing support of parents -the prognosis is poor.


Role of Parents


What is our role as a parent? Some may think it is to control every move they make or perhaps map out what we believe is their best path in life and stand by to ensure they are making those steps we believe will put them on the right direction.

Quite simply; our children are on loan to us. We have the privilege of teaching them about life, love and responsibility. It might sound a simple philosophy but it encompasses everything and puts our role in perspective.

Trust your instincts. Mother Nature gave this gift to all of us and it is the most important guide when it comes to parenting. Add to this some common sense, support and knowledge and we have the best recipe to help us make the best decisions for our children.

Parenting Tips for dealing with Teenagers.

How do you tackle challenging situations with teens, what skills are required, and how is it achieved with both parents and teens surviving?

The key lies in understanding that parenting is a journey and whether we know it or not, we all have the innate skills buried somewhere to deal with even the most challenging situations. Our own upbringing may have been less than satisfactory leaving us with a poor example to mould our own parenting techniques. Being a sole parent and dealing with everything on our own can add to the equation; leaving us feeling overwhelmed and depleted of energy. This makes it difficult to establish and maintain boundaries because we are struggling to deal with all child rearing has to offer. The real paradox however is that our children are the ones that can teach us more than we realise!

Tough Love

What is tough Love?

It is Caring for them so much that we:
• Make decisions that are in line with their best interests and safety- even if they don’t like it – or us
• Accept the uncomfortable feelings that arise when we impose boundaries.
• Accept they may not like us for a while, but know this will not last forever and they will grow to respect us.

Tough Love is not being mean or nasty. It teaches them about responsibility, patience and respect which are essential skills they need to learn in order to have a happy and balanced life.

A boundary can be your teenager’s best friend…. They just don’t know it yet!

Boundaries are a part and parcel of life. Their primary purpose is to keep them and others safe from harm as well as teach them what is acceptable behaviour in society and how to live with rules and regulations.

Parenting is all about preparing our children for adulthood. It is crucial they learn to deal with the disappointment of NO so as adults they will have the emotional maturity to deal with life’s ups and downs. Boundaries need to be consistent so if complacency sets in, just start over again.

Teenagers may protest to boundaries and they may not always like you but keep in mind the bigger picture; they are there to protect and help them and in time they will respect and love you for that. Boundaries are an essential ingredient for positive parenting and also the greatest gift we can give them in their transition to the big wide world.

Testing the Boundaries

Boundaries are easier to put in place when they are realistic, make sense and are based on the theme of teaching responsibility or keeping them or others safe. When you are clear on what you need to do, have made a decision and feel confident that you will have the courage to follow a boundary through, it will fall into place more smoothly. If you are uncertain or undecided then the boundary will follow suit and be more likely to be unsuccessful.

Most teenagers will test the boundaries to some degree. Those that have had little experience with them will be more likely to react.
Teenagers will often go through various stages before they accept your boundary:

In this stage it will appear they are not concerned and will not take in much of what you said. They might go about their day as though nothing is wrong. I-pods, mobile phones, friends and social networking sites are a good distraction.


This happens when the time comes to impose the boundary and they realise you meant what you said. Suddenly they are taking notice and listening. Both parties are aware that conflict is in the air.


This is the countdown until reaction hits. The intensity can vary for each child and depends on many factors. Common reactions may include: anger, crying, sulking, blaming, being miserable, threatening to leave home, change parents or protesting that you are a mean parent who does not understand them. Remember not to take this personally. They are most likely reacting to peer group pressure. Guilt, fear and manipulation are the main players in this stage and are responsible for causing much emotion in both parties.

This is where parents may need to seek support-either through other parents, family members, friends, a trusted mentor or counsellor.

This can be the most difficult stage and particularly hard if you are a single parent with little support. Talk with friends, stay around positive people, get out and have some fun and try and lighten up. Its gets easier from here…Promise!

Deal breaker

In this stage they are very aware that you are serious. This is where teens use all the tools of the trade to bargain and ‘strike a deal’ with you. This is usually a clever compromise to avoid change and return to the way things were. It sounds a great idea and a fleeting feeling of relief descends as you consider sealing the deal because you so want to avoid any further conflict.

The calm after the storm.

Both parent and teenager retreat to digest and reflect over what has happened. The deal maker may make another appearance at this stage for last desperate plea.

The sequel

Ok the storm has passed. But every great movie has a sequel and every earthquake has after-shocks. The second one is never as big as the first. They might shake your ground a bit, but they will settle again .You now have the skills now to deal with it so don’t give up.


Finally the storm has passed as well as the after -shocks. A calm acceptance is in the air and a sense of relief. They may even admit they are not concerned anymore. A boundary gives both parents and teenagers time to put everything in perspective and some space to let the effects of the peer group pressure wear off. There is a healthy respect for you- even though they may not be overly friendly. As the respect builds, things will change for the better and you can begin to develop a healthy relationship based on trust and respect. There will always be times when you need to re-establish some boundaries. That’s ok. Just start again and try to be more consistent. Practice is needed as is it not always easy.

Note: In some cases where problems persist or become serious, professional help should also be sought; especially if you feel you are not coping or are concerned about your child’s behaviour.

Tips for staying sane when parenting:

  • Put yourself first. It may seem selfish but is better all round for everyone.
  • Don’t be a Martyr and do everything by yourself. Ask for help if you need it, particularly if you are a single parent or without a good family support.
  • Make sure you eat healthy and get some regular exercise.
  • Have some time out to relax or enjoy a hobby or interest.
  • Don’t bottle things up. A talk to a friend, teacher, family member or counsellor can help put things in perspective. Parenting can be very challenging and it is easy to get into a rut or a pattern of negative thinking, especially when dealing with teenagers who are challenging your resources.
  • Remember that they will soon mature and things will be different. Try to imagine what it will feel like in a few years from now or even when they one day have their own job and family of their own. They will be in a totally different headspace and the things that are so important to them now will be a distant memory.


One day they will realise that you were just doing your best and trying to protect them and they will never dislike you for that. Hopefully they will pass on to their own children what you taught them. Remind yourself that they won’t be teenagers forever. The time will eventually come when they become adults and we will have to let them go their own way and learn just like we had to.

So remember …. Our kids really are on loan to us. If we teach them the importance of love and responsibility we have done our job well!

Download Keep em safe Parent Question and Answer Guide


How do you recognise if your child is having problems with alcohol?

This can be tricky because teenagers can display many traits that could fit into what is regarded as normal behaviour for an adolescent as they pass through the stages of maturity to adulthood. If you notice more than one of these or if any one of them are worrying  you, then  it is wise to speak to a health professional such as your Gp, school counsellor, youth agency or drug and alcohol service provider for help. Some of the signs that your child could be experiencing problems with alcohol are:  Problems with school, including :school marks slipping or recent trouble with disciplinary action and/or the law , Changing  their circle of friends and  wanting to keep them away from family.  Irritability, mood flare-ups/swings, defensive behaviour and attitude.  Not worried about appearance and general slack/untidy approach  Finding alcohol hidden in their room or bags. Physical signs such as tiredness, red eyes, sleeping in late. Signs of alcohol intoxication which may include: slurred speech, loss of co –ordination, changes in facial expression, general slowing down and smell of alcohol on the breath,( often sweet smelling at first but can change to a stronger smell by the morning as the alcohol is being broken down by the body.

How do I get support if I am having difficulty with my childs behaviour?

Teenagers can often display rebellious behaviour in their journey into adulthood. This can make parenting challenging and confusing at times. Having strategies and being prepared as well as seeking support is important. Support may be in the form of a trusted mentor, family member or friend that shares similar values, or if you are concerned or having difficulties it may be advisable to seek extra support or professional help. A talk with your GP, Parentline, or the School Counsellor is a good start, and they can advise other resources and links to professional services if needed. It is comforting to feel supported in how we want to parent our children and know we are doing the best for them.

See links below for some helpful parenting resources:


A confidential free telephone service in Australia providing professional counselling and support for parents and carers:


For details of Parentline in other states in Australia and other help for young people :



Parenting/Help  Websites:






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