There is a high chance that teenagers have or will have an encounter with alcohol, either through experimenting or through someone else’s drinking. “As a parent it is your responsibility to keep them safe from underage drinking by teaching them that alcohol is for adult consumption only, and to equip them with the right tools and knowledge to say no to alcohol when they are away from your supervision,” said Rowan Dunne, alcohol policy manager at SAB.

Teens have less physical tolerance to the effects of alcohol, and their brains which are still developing, are more susceptible to alcohol related harm.

The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism stated in a 2010 publication that most studies show the benefits from allowing children to drink in the home or controlled environment are non-existent. “This means that as a parent, keeping them safe includes saying no to them using alcohol at home,” said Dunne.

The South African Breweries (SAB) runs You Decide, an interactive underage drinking roadshow, which aims to help educate teenagers about the dangers of consuming alcohol and equip them with various techniques on how to avoid peer pressure and to make the right choices in life.

According to SADAG, it is an adult’s responsibility to keep communication open with teenagers in order for them to understand the consequences and dangers of underage drinking.

Open communication also allows guidance to be given to teenagers with how to say no to peer pressure.

The campaign also speaks to parents and adults about the active role they play in their teenagers’ lives.

Listen to your children:
The more open your relationship with your children is, the more likely they will feel comfortable with talking to you about any issues, including alcohol. Listen to them, don’t judge and let them know they can come to you and trust you.

Teach them to deal with peer pressure:
Give them some examples of how to say ‘no’ without losing face. If your child is offered alcohol, here are some examples of what he or she can say, which includes using white lies that involve you or the other parent:
· “No thanks.”
· “Not today, thanks.”
· “I don’t like the way it (beer, wine, cider) tastes.”
· “I’ll be grounded for life if my dad finds out I’ve been drinking.”
· “My mom will not teach me how to drive if she finds out I have been drinking.”
· “I need all my brain cells for rugby practice (math test, homework) tomorrow.”

If your child is offered alcohol, here are some examples of what he or she can do:
· Leave the scene
· Change the subject
· Laugh it off

Teach them to say no to adults:
They should learn to say no to adults who send them to the tavern or the shop to buy alcohol; or adults who offer them a taste or sip of an alcoholic drink and promise not to tell.

Invest in recreational activities and in spending quality time with your children:
Encourage your teens to take part in activities that develop interests and skills that will help them feel good about themselves without the use of alcohol. Hobbies, school events, sports, healthy relationships, and volunteer work are examples of such activities.

Talk about substance abuse:
If you don’t tell them the facts, someone else will – and the ‘facts’ they get from friends are seldom true. Instead of waiting until a problem arises, talk to your teen about your concerns and the messages they may be getting from the media and their peers.

Know the facts and then teach them:
Know the facts about alcohol. You can’t expect your child to know the effects of alcohol on the body and the risks of alcohol misuse if you don’t have all the information yourself.

Be informed and ensure your teenager knows the effects of alcohol and the dangers it presents.

Research from the 2012 University of South Africa (Unisa) Youth Research Unit Substance Abuse Survey, shows:
· Teenagers who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who have their first drink at age 20 or older.
· Teens that use alcohol are three times more likely to be involved in violent crimes.
· 67% of teens who drink before the age of 15 will go on to use illegal drugs.
The campaign has a toll-free line for youth to call, should they need any help (0800 33 33 77).

Sources: South African Depression and Anxiety Group and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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