Read about four common family situations involving alcohol and other drugs, with suggestions to help you work out the best way to respond.
When thinking about how the situations would apply in your case, you need to take into account the age of your child and their level of mental and emotional development.
Making decisions about allowing your child to attend events where alcohol or other drugs might be available.
Planning a teenage birthday party.
Beginning a conversation with your children on the topic of alcohol and other drugs.
How might you react if you believed your child had been drinking?
Scenario 1: Attending parties
Your teenage children want to go to a local party. You have heard that there might be underage drinking, smoking and that drugs may be available. How would you handle this situation?
Points to consider
- As a parent you have the right to tell your children that they can’t go. If you decide to say no, it is important to explain your feelings and concerns to them in a way that they can understand.
- Before making a final decision, it may help to find out as much as you can about the event, including who else is going. You could talk to the parents who will be hosting the party.
- The host of the party may be breaking the law if alcohol is served, as a number of states in Australia have laws that make it an offence for a person to supply alcohol to someone who is aged under 18 on private property without parental consent. Find out more about secondary supply laws.
- You could talk to other parents and work out consistent views and rules. If you decide your children can go, you could discuss what role each parent could play, who will take them and who will pick them up.
- If you decide that you will allow your children to go, talk to them before you drop them off. They may be nervous too! Talking shows them that you care about their safety and gives them an opportunity to discuss what might happen at the party.
- What will happen if something goes wrong? When you talk to the children before they go, give them the chance to come up with suggestions about this. You will need to work together to come up with some strategies to make sure they will be safe.
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Scenario 2: Holding a party
Your teenager wants to have a birthday party. They have some friends they wish to invite to the party whom they know will want to drink alcohol. How will you plan for this event?
Points to consider
- In thinking about how to deal with this situation, there are some key issues, such as your child’s feelings, their safety and legal matters.
- Not agreeing to the party is likely to create some tension between you and your child, unless you can suggest some other options such as going to a restaurant or some special place such as an amusement park.
- You may decide that a party can go ahead but with no alcohol. It would be worth discussing some ways that you and your child can make the party an attractive event without the alcohol. You could use lighting, decorations and good music, with plenty of room to move and dance. You could provide interesting non-alcoholic drinks and good food. All the guests should know that alcohol will not be allowed at the party.
- If you decide to allow alcohol you will need to be aware of secondary supply laws that exist in a number of states in Australia. These laws that make it an offence for a person to supply alcohol to someone who is aged under 18 on private property without parental consent. Find out more about secondary supply laws.
Return to 'Planning for teenage parties'.
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Scenario 3: Talking to your kids
You and your family are watching TV, and drug taking is shown. You could use this opportunity to:
Points to consider
- A TV program can be used to start a discussion that is non-personal and non-threatening. You might like to explore what your child would do if offered drugs, or if a friend of theirs reacted badly after taking a drug. You could let your child know that although you may not always approve of drug use, you will always be there for them.
- Asking "What do you think about…?" is an open question and will invite the young person to talk.
- If your child is put on the spot, by being asked if they take drugs, they may say whatever they think is necessary to get the pressure off them. Asking this question doesn’t provide a chance for a discussion about drugs in any detail.
- Using strong language gives the message that if your child needs to talk about drugs, you may become angry or worked up. This discourages communication.
- Describing people who use drugs as 'scum' shows a lack of compassion, and may make your children hesitant to discuss drug issues with you.
Return to 'How will I raise the topic?'.
Scenario 4: Intoxicated teenager
Your 14-year-old son Josh comes home from a friend's place. They have been to the football, and Josh has obviously been drinking. As far as you know, it is the first time he has been drunk. What are some ways that you could respond?
Points to consider
- If you haven't talked to Josh about alcohol use before, now is the time to do so—but wait until you have simmered down and he is sober. You may also want to talk to his friend's parents.
- In a discussion like this it is easy to become judgemental and accusing. Instead, you could ask Josh how he feels about the experience, and its consequences. It is generally more effective to let your child work out for himself where he has gone wrong and what he could do differently.
- If you have already discussed alcohol use, you could discuss with Josh how you feel about him breaking your trust.
Return to 'What can I do if my teenager comes home affected by alcohol or other drugs?'.
Last updated: 13 February 2013