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Parents Guide

Under-age drinking is a common issue faced by many parents and young people. While current levels of underage drinking are a concern, there is encouraging evidence from the 2008 Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug Survey showing a significant fall in the percentage of young people who have ever consumed alcohol as well as those that have consumed alcohol recently. This shows that more parents and young people are making healthier decisions about drinking alcohol.

 

Parents who want to know more about the best strategies to help adolescents from misusing alcohol can assess their current parenting practices and obtain help online. The Parenting Strategies: Preventing Adolescent Alcohol Misuse website was developed by researchers from the University of Melbourne and Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre. It provides parents with evidence-based information about how best to prevent adolescents from misusing alcohol. The website also gives parents the opportunity to assess their current approaches via a survey, with immediate, personalised feedback provided to help them more confidently handle the issue of alcohol use with their child.

Practical evidence-based strategies for dealing with the common dilemma of when to allow their children to drink alcohol. Parents who implement the strategies may also reduce the risk that their child will develop alcohol-related problems as a young adult.

 

The practice of adults supplying alcohol to minors is often called secondary supply. It is a complex issue. Under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, a person must not supply liquor to a minor and a minor must not receive, possess or consume liquor. The Act does not apply to private residences, and some exemptions apply to licensed premises.

 

The Victorian Government will introduce a new Bill into Parliament that will make it an offence under the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998 for adults to supply alcohol to a minor (a person under the age of 18 years) in a private home without parental consent.

 

The government believes that parents should have greater control over their child’s consumption of alcohol. Currently, liquor laws prohibit the supply of alcohol to minors in licensed venues, but they do not address alcohol being supplied to minors in private homes. As a consequence, any adult can legally supply alcohol to a minor in a private home.

 

The proposed laws have been introduced in light of the latest scientific evidence of the negative impacts of alcohol consumption on adolescent development, including the National Health and Medical Research Council national guidelines released in 2009, 'Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol'. The Guidelines state that: Children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking. Not drinking in this age group - under 15 years - is especially important. For young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay drinking for as long as possible.

 

There are many good reasons to encourage your teenager not to drink alcohol before turning 18. Early drinking is related to increased alcohol consumption in adolescence and young adulthood. These drinking patterns are also related to the possibility of damage to the developing brain and development of alcohol-related harms in adulthood. The proposed laws will require adults to have parental consent before supplying alcohol to minors in their home. This will help parents feel more assured when their children are visiting friends’ houses that they are not drinking alcoholic beverages without their knowledge.?An adult who supplies alcohol to a minor without a parent’s consent could be subject to the same penalty faced by licensees who supply alcohol to minors in licensed venues – a maximum of over $7000.

Parents and carers play an important role in educating teenage children about the use of alcohol, setting standards and limits for their children, and in modelling attitudes and alcohol consumption behaviour. Research has suggested that teenagers look to their parents to provide guidance and boundaries of acceptable behaviour with respect to drinking alcohol. This of course, is not to suggest that teenagers will never overstep these boundaries, but rather an indication that teenagers are looking to their parents to set and communicate these standards, against which they can assess their own behaviour.

 

Talking to your children about alcohol use and the consequences and risks associated with drinking to intoxication can play an important role in influencing your teenager’s drinking habits. By modelling responsible attitudes and behaviour with respect to your own drinking and avoiding drinking to intoxication, you have a much greater chance of positively influencing your teenager’s attitudes to drinking.

 

Setting a good example

 

  • Model responsible behaviour and attitudes towards drinking and alcohol that are consistent with the expectations you have set for your kids.
  • Drink sensibly and keep a track of how much you are drinking.
  • Show your teenager how to refuse a drink that is offered by a friend.
  • Educate your teenager about the size of a standard drink. Standard drink sizes can often be deceptive to both adults and teenagers.
  • Be aware of your attitudes and reactions towards alcohol. For example saying “It’s been a hard week, I need a drink!” clearly identifies your attitude towards alcohol.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
  • Encourage open lines of communication from an early age
  • Aim to eat dinner as a family unit to allow teenagers to talk about their day and any other issues they might want to discuss. Accordingly, set aside family time and allow opportunities to discuss issues such as drinking alcohol. However, don’t make these issues the focus of every outing or discussion, as teenagers will tend to avoid time spent together. Thus, focus on getting to know your teenager’s friends so that you know where they are going and who they are going with. Additionally, build support networks with friends’ parents to assist with difficult situations and keeping a track of them to ensure you know where they are. Further, assure them that if they do get into trouble you are there to help them out.
  • What to talk about
  • Discuss the risks and harms associated with drinking to intoxication, including health and social impact. However, remain positive by discuss moderation and its benefits and setting clear boundaries and expectations with regards to what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour with regards to drinking alcohol. Thus, aim to discourage your kids from drinking alcohol for as long as possible. Once teenagers have started to drink, it is often difficult to reverse.
  • Discuss coping skills such as what to do if a friend is intoxicated, in which case, stress the importance of never getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Agree to plan and anticipate issues and set processes in place in case of emergencies or whenever a situation ever arises, which may include paying for a taxi when they get home, picking them up, or allowing them to stay overnight at a friend’s place.
  • Teach your children how to cope with situations they may be faced with if they do decide to drink alcohol. Ensure your position on the matter is clear, however, educate them on how to be safe and how they can reduce the risks and harms associated with drinking to intoxication.
  • Educate your kids about drink spiking, where and how it can happen, and the importance of friends looking out for one another.
  • It only takes a second for someone to drop a pill into a teenager’s drink, and can happen anywhere – pubs, clubs, house parties or other social events. Teenagers need to be vigilant of their and their friends’ drinks at all times. Many of the drugs often have no taste and are odourless and colourless. The drugs are often used to immobilise and silence their victims, so that the offender does not have to use physical force or overcome the victim’s resistance.
  • Secondary supply, generally refers to the sale or supply of alcohol to people under the age of 18 years (minors) by adults or other minors.13

 

It is illegal in most states for someone under the age of 18 to drink or buy alcohol, or have alcohol supplied to them by an adult, in a licensed venue or public place.

 

Laws pertaining to parental supply in private residents, public places and licensed venues vary between states. In some jurisdictions, adults may be subject to large fines for providing alcohol on private property to minors without parental permission, and for providing excessive amounts of alcohol. They may also be required to provide adequate supervision for alcohol consumption by young people on their property.

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New drink and drug driving penalties
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