In 2016, Deakin University researchers used a study which followed 2,000 Melbourne high school students from Year 7 to Year 9 to establish how parenting style influences the development of alcohol and cannabis use among teenagers.
The facts about teenage boys and drugs:
- 76 percent of Australian-born teenagers consumed alcohol in Year 9, compared with 48 percent of teenagers who spoke a language other than English at home or were born overseas.
- 10 percent of Australian-born students had used cannabis, while only four percent of migrants had.
- Researcher Matin Minaie found that after controlling for other risk factors, parenting behaviours had a significant influence on whether teenagers drank alcohol or used marijuana by the time they were 15. Strong family management, regardless of cultural background, was a protective factor against alcohol and drug use.
"Parents that establish rules that children understand and then supervise their children to ensure those rules are being followed tend to have lower rates of substance use in their children," said Dr Minaie.
She found that migrant families were more likely to parent this way than Australian families. "In families from a migrant background, especially Asian background and eastern cultures, there was a tougher kind of parenting, monitoring and family management," Dr Minaie said. "Control was a higher factor."
We know that adolescence is a time of experimentation, pushing boundaries and risk taking. Teenagers will choose to spend more time with their peer groups as they move into their adolescence, and while it won’t always seem like it, the opinions of parents still matter. The key for parents is to stay connected with your son, to help guide and influence him in his decisions around the use of drugs and alcohol.
Kids Helpline, the phone and counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25 has some really practical advice for how to start a conversation about drug and alcohol use and how parents can reduce the possibility of adolescents experiencing drug problems. They include:
Arm yourself with the facts: Before a conversation with your son about drugs and alcohol, learn as much as you can about the different types of drugs and their effect, the impact on the developing brain and decision making ability, and changes to behaviour. Aim to communicate the facts about drugs and alcohol and avoid exaggeration.
Encourage the conversation when you’re both ready: Children as young as five can have opinions about alcohol. So age appropriate conversations about drugs and alcohol from an early age can be beneficial. Actively listen to the questions your son is asking – a good launching point could be to ask him about the topics he is learning about in Health and PDHPE and go from there. Again, use these as opportunities to communicate age appropriate facts and information. When you’re ready you can branch into discussions around what happens when teenagers drink: the effects on the body, behaviour, and decision making.
Conversations with friends: If your son has a close circle of friends, let him know he can share his worries or views about drug use with his friends to avoid unnecessary peer pressure. Let him know that true friends will respect his decision. Encourage him to have more than one group of friends.
Strategies for social situations: Help your son prepare for a situation where he might be offered drugs or alcohol, like parties. Discuss ways that he can walk away or remove himself from an uncomfortable situation. Being available to collect your son and his friends from a party is a useful strategy. Get to know that parents of your son’s friends and ask them where they stand on underage drinking and drugs.
Back yourself: Drive home the point that everyone is different and will have different views on drugs and alcohol. Encourage your son to be true to himself, back his choices and reassure him he has your support. Be clear about your family’s agreements and guidelines around alcohol and drugs.
Trinity Grammar School encourages your son to realise his potential, pursue his passions and discover his purpose all within the context of a supportive Christian environment. We have guided boys to grow in mind, body and spirit for over a century and we know what boys need to truly flourish and succeed.
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