The reality is that adolescents’ alcohol consumption has increased alarmingly

(particularly among girls). Parties/social events from the age of 13 (and younger) very

often include alcohol. It is smuggled in, delivered to the gate, and quite often even

supplied by the parents/hosts. At school, kids arrive with alcohol-laced juice bottles.

Parents say that if they try to ban alcohol from a party they’re told that “no-one will

come”, that they’re forcing their child to commit “social suicide”, and that “everyone

drinks wherever we go, it’s the norm”.


School counsellors report a distressing increase in teen alcohol-related problems

including sexual abuse and rape; drug use; sexual experimentation (plus resulting

trauma through disease, pregnancy or regret); declining school marks; theft of

valuables; and alcoholism. A great number of the problems expressed by teenagers

have their roots in alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking by girls is also causing medical

concerns about the future impact on health and fertility.


When questioned about why they drink, teens say: “it gives me confidence; lets me

fit in; makes me feel grown-up; tastes good; dulls the pain; everyone’s drinking”.

Thomas Burkhalter comments: “This is a very complex topic that involves many

aspects: Protecting the child from exposure; education; building self-esteem;

acknowledging vulnerabilities etc. I would like to illustrate one point in this regard, and

that is parental involvement. Given that it is unavoidable that our children will come into

contact with alcohol, and drugs for that matter, it is crucial for us to think about how we

can help them negotiate this reality, safely and realistically.


We would hope that our children would abstain until older, but not all children will.

You need to be interested and involved in your child’s life. Have a sense of what they

are thinking, care about where they are and what they are doing, and open up the issue

of drugs and alcohol. In so doing do not make alcohol bad (because you presumably

drink, as do their friends), but talk about why we drink, what purpose it serves, what

purpose it may serve for them. Talk about the function of drinking in their peer groups

and what it means not to drink. These are realities to them that we need to

acknowledge and respect. If the adolescent feels that the parent is out of touch with

his/her reality, that they don’t understand the pressures on the ground, whatever advice

they have to offer will seem irrelevant even if wise. Further, remember that our children

watch us and model on us, and our relationship to alcohol will be noted by them.”


Counsellors also ask that parents: enforce “no-booze” at parties; adhere to clubs’

age restrictions; and communicate with other parents to avoid being pressured to give

in “because everyone else is allowed”. Requests have also been received for the

Forum to be used, once it’s large enough, to address concerns with alcohol distributors,

clubs, media and other influential bodies.


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