Alcohol & Parenting: Talking to Teens, with Anita Cleare

alcohol alcohol awareness alcohol culture anita cleare culture drinking culture parenting peer pressure talking to teens teenage drinking Apr 24, 2024

How to talk to your teens about alcohol

In the latest episode of The Big Drink Rethink, we explore a question that's on the minds of many parents I talk to. How should we tackle the conversation about alcohol with our teenagers? It's a maze that seems almost impossible to navigate, right? But fear not. Bringing in the expertise of parenting coach Anita Cleare, we unpack some really crucial points that I want to share with you all.

Sharing parental experiences

Let's face it: talking to teens is tough. You want to be open and honest, but you don't want your own experiences to overshadow theirs. Anita Cleare nicely put it that while sharing our journeys can make us relatable and may encourage our kids to open up, there is also a risk of making the conversation too much about us. The key takeaway? Balance is crucial. We should strive to listen more and ensure the discussion remains centred on our teens' thoughts and emotions.

Teenage independence and learning from mistakes

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting through the teenage years is acknowledging their budding independence. Anita stressed the importance of respecting their experiences and recognising that teenagers are on their own path of discovery. It's normal and necessary for them to make some mistakes along the way. Our role is to provide guidance without overstepping their need to be independent and make their decisions and mistakes.

Sharing the dangers of alcohol

When it comes to alcohol, teens don't always understand the risks involved. Anita and I chatted about the need to discuss not only the immediate dangers like alcohol poisoning and injuries but also the more insidious ones like mental health issues and the influence of the alcohol industry. Interestingly, Anita pointed out that teenagers assess risks differently from adults. They are often led more by the likelihood of an outcome rather than its potential severity. This means we need to adjust our messaging and advice to be more impactful.

The influence of parent behaviours and approaches

We can't forget that our actions speak louder than words. Anita made it clear that there is no upside to introducing our kids to alcohol. And the way we handle alcohol ourselves is under constant scrutiny from our observant teens. Our behaviours, whether we realise it or not, set a precedent for them.

Building bridges of communication

During our chat, Anita and I agreed on the essence of maintaining strong communication lines with our teenagers. It's not about lecturing them on do's and don'ts; it's about being there for them, showing care, and navigating these confusing years alongside them. Parenting shouldn't be about judging ourselves or others harshly; it's about relationship-building and being supportive as they move towards adulthood.

Embracing the role of the Parent-Advisor

Our teens are growing up in a culture that tries to normalise excessive drinking. So, guiding them through this part of their lives means we need to be their ally, encouraging safe practices and moderation. Anita and I underscored the importance of sharing safety advice without scaremongering. Things like watching their alcohol intake, staying close to friends, and understanding the repercussions of their online presence are all vital lessons.

I learned a lot from my conversation with Anita Cleare. It reminds us that while the teen years can be tumultuous, they are also a time for growth, learning, and fostering trust. Remember that while today's cultural backdrop can feel daunting, as parents, we can still make a significant impact on our teenagers' attitudes toward alcohol and risky behaviours. We just need to keep the lines of communication open, treat them with respect, and provide a model they can aspire to. You can listen to the full episode here, and if  you haven’t already done so, please rate, review, and follow The Big Drink Rethink wherever you listen to your podcasts.

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