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How to Have a Conversation About Alcohol With Teens on the Cusp of Turning 18


SADFSDFMany young adults will soon leave the nest for tertiary institutions or be preparing to live away from home for the first time. They will be confronted with alcohol at various social gatherings, including varsity orientation parties, nightclubs and at the homes of friends.

As they become increasingly independent and remote, it will become harder for parents to monitor their actions and influence what their children consume.

“This is why conversations about alcohol responsibility should be reinforced as children enter the legal drinking age,” says Naazia Ismail, Project Manager at the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

The coming of age of a child is a special occasion. Turning 18 means a young adult is legally able to make many life-changing decisions without parental supervision or consent, including the decision whether to drink or not.

Some families may mark this rite of passage into adulthood with a celebration with friends and family.  “This celebration can be the ideal setting for young adults to have their first drink. It is in this safe environment that parents and family members can reiterate the importance of drinking responsibly and remind young adults that the legal right to drink is not a license for going overboard,” says Ismail.

According to SADAG, while conversations about alcohol should begin from the time a child is in grade 5 or at a pre-teen stage, it is important for parents and older siblings to consider how best to have a conversation with the young adult about their first drink, and about alcohol consumption in general.

SAB, which launched the 18+ campaign as a call to action for adults to be role models in the fight against underage drinking, says parents and adults shouldn’t take the foot off the pedal as children reach the legal drinking age. Young adults need accurate advice about alcohol consumption as they become legally eligible to drink.

Advice on talking to young adults about their first legal drink and alcohol consumption

•         Encourage them to always drink in moderation.

•         Highlight the dangers of intoxication, such as not getting home safely, being at risk of unprotected sex and not being in control.

•         Advise them to pace themselves by sipping their drinks rather than downing them and to alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

•         Warn them to avoid drinking games and to avoid shots/shooters, as competitive drinking or taking shots can lead to consuming alcohol at a rapid rate, which can lead to dangerous levels of intoxication.

•         Remind them to keep hydrated by drinking water throughout a night out.

•         Point out the importance of eating before going out and to continue snacking throughout the night.

•         Make them aware of the alcohol percentages of different drinks.

•         Advise them to keep track of how much they drink, know their limits and to stick to them.

•         Caution them to never leave their drink unattended.

•         Remind them not to drink and drive.

•         Let them know that it’s okay to say “no” to friends. Peer pressure is still an issue for young adults who may see friends getting drunk and want to be like them.

To take the pledge against underage drinking go to www.sabstories.co.za.

Should you need to speak to a SADAG counsellor, the emergency toll-free line is (0800) 567 567. Alternatively you speak to a counsellor between 8am-8pm Monday to Sunday on (011) 234 4837.