Raising the drinking age to 21: Is it likely to ever happen?

While I was overseas on business last week an Australian study was published that apparently received a great deal of media attention. Researchers from UNSW followed young people from 13 to 30 and found that "early patterns of drinking are not limited to adolescence but rather persist into adulthood and are associated with a range of alcohol-related problems." This study provides one more important piece of the puzzle when it comes to helping parents make decisions around their child and alcohol. We've long known the dangers associated with 'binge drinking' (drinking to get drunk) and parents are now far more aware of the importance of delaying their child's first drink of alcohol for as long as possible (i.e., delay, delay, delay), but this research has found that how often a teen drinks is also a predictor of possible future problems.

No longer can a parent say "Well, he only has a couple of beers when he goes to a party on a Saturday night. He never …

What do you do when your 15-year-old comes home drunk after a party?

Although we are continuing to see more young people choosing not to drink alcohol, if your child lives with you for long enough (and evidence suggests many of you will still have them living in your house until they're in their mid 20s at least!), there's still a good chance that at some point they'll turn up at your door feeling a little worse for wear. They went out with friends, had a little bit too much to drink and you've got to end up looking after them … Now if they're 18 or over when this happens, you may not necessarily be happy about it but they're 'legal' - once they've recovered, you certainly have the right to tell them that they're living under your roof and have to follow your rules, but realistically most of us make a mistake at least once when it comes to drinking (that's how we learn about our limits) and most parents help clean their drunk son or daughter up, mop up the mess, make sure they're okay and move on.

But wh…

'Mum, I can't lie – I did have a couple of sips at the party …": When does 'honesty' become 'manipulation'?

During the week I met a Mum and Dad who asked my advice on how they should deal with their 15-year-old son who had been honest about drinking alcohol at a party. Their question went something like this …

We have made our rules about underage drinking pretty clear and our son knows that we do not want him to drink alcohol at this time in his life. He has been going to parties more frequently this year and we have always trusted him to do the 'right thing' - he is a great kid! A couple of weeks ago after we picked him up from one of these parties he turned around and told us that he wanted to be honest with us and said that he had had a couple of sips of one of his friend's beers during the night. Whether or not he had more than that we don't know - he certainly didn't appear to be intoxicated on the night. We then found ourselves in a really difficult situation - he had broken one of our basic rules about parties, i.e., he was not to drink alcohol. On the other hand…

Vodka, vodka, vodka: Why is it so popular amongst teens and why is it so problematic?

Not surprisingly, the death earlier this week of a 15-year-old Sydney girl from apparent alcohol poisoning attracted a great deal of media attention across the country. According to media reports she had been drinking alone and returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.4 with NSW Police stating that the girl "sourced an alcoholic drink recipe from an online site, then put the information to the test." 

Although there has been a great deal of speculation about what actually happened, the police have made it clear that "the investigation is in its infancy" and we really won't know exactly what went down until the post mortem examination takes place sometime this week. A relative was quoted as saying that the young woman had consumed a bottle of vodka and early reports spoke about police seizing energy drinks, with lollies added to the apparent list of things that could possibly have been used in later stories. 

Until we know what actually happened I think we have to be…

Looking after a drunk person: How can we ensure the person providing the care is safe?

At some point during their teens most young people, regardless of whether they drink themselves or not, will have to look after a drunk friend, family member or someone they have come across at a party or gathering. It is therefore incredibly important to make sure we arm them with good quality information about alcohol and its effects, as well as providing them with practical strategies that will enable them to do this effectively. Making sure the drunk person is safe - i.e., that they don't lose consciousness or choke on their own vomit - is incredibly important but it is also just important to make sure that the person providing the care is also safe.
Looking after a drunk person, whether they are a friend or not, is potentially risky. Drunk people can be unpredictable and, of course, aggressive behaviour is a very real risk. So many things can go wrong and over the years I have seen some shocking injuries inflicted by drunk people on friends. Some of these include the followi…

When should you start the conversation about alcohol with your child?

In the last couple of weeks I've been asked a number of times when I believe is the best time to start the conversation about alcohol with your child. I'm often asked this question and I've written about this before but thought it may be a good idea to update a blog I wrote a couple of years ago that discussed this important issue …

A US report published in 2015 aimed at preventing binge drinking in young people recommended that parents should start talking to their children about alcohol at age 9. Co-author of the report, Dr Lorena Siqueira was reported as saying that the reason to start the conversation this early was that "kids are starting to develop impressions (about alcohol) as early as 9 years." She went on to say that for prevention to actually work, or at least have some effect, it's better for parents to influence ideas about alcohol early, rather than trying to change their impressions later, from positive to negative.

I've written many times…

Parenting a teenager:"It's all about sacrifice!"

I'm constantly writing about the bizarre parenting, particularly around alcohol and partying, I see or hear about as I'm travelling across the country and I have been occasionally criticised for what some see as 'parent bashing'. I'm not a parent (as my wonderful sister-in-law has told me after hearing me present at an Information Evening a few years ago) and I absolutely get it, it's so easy for me to criticise what parents do or don't do in this area when I don't have to deal with the issue myself. That said, I always try to make it clear in anything I write (or say for that matter) that I believe parenting is the toughest job in the world - there is no 'rule book'.

Every family is different and within each family, every child is going to have their own personality and potentially their own issues. You'll be different each time as well. Raising a child, with all the fears and anxiety that comes with first-time parenthood (combined with a…