I have been witness to many conversations between parents about when to introduce alcohol to their children. Some follow the ‘European’ model of introducing alcohol early with family meals, some make it readily available for teen social occasions, and others have a parenting policy to delay the first drink until at least 18. The ideal option is the latter. Teen brains are not fully developed until they are in fact no longer teens- approximately age 25.
Everyone I have seen for alcohol issues as an adult had their first drink as a young teen – and that drink has usually been from a relative like an older sibling, uncle at Christmas, parent’s friend, and most often their parent.
Research clearly indicates that the younger teens are when they begin to consume alcohol the greater the possibility that alcohol will interfere with brain maturation and the greater risk of alcoholism in adulthood.
Because alcohol consumption is so prevalent and normalised in our society people forget that it is neuro-toxic – brain poisoning in simpler terms.
When is the best time to offer brain-poison to your child? Alcohol in teens is linked to impulsivity, behavioural disturbance, and cognitive impairments such as memory problems and poor problem solving. Years of research demonstrates that heavy drinking causes long-term and sometimes permanent damage to the brain, but recent research also suggests that in teens structural changes may begin to occur early due to their brain developmental stage. Invest in the brain power of young people and delay the toxic effect of alcohol.
• Teach teens about alcohol content variation- one bottle of vodka is not the same as one bottle of beer- you might laugh but I know that confusion landed one young person in ICU unconscious getting thier stomach pumped before alcohol killed them
• Model appropriate drinking behaviour – we must stop the binge culture of drink to be drunk
• Teach teens and young adults strategies to say no and manage peer pressure to drink alcohol
• Remind young people heading off to Schoolies that their brain is their greatest asset for their future.