In South Africa, drinking is a part of the lifestyle

As a caring parent and a good role model, you can make a big difference and help your teenager not become a statistic. Good parenting has been shown to be the single biggest factor in avoiding alcohol abuse in youth. You can help your teens make responsible decisions in life by building their self-confidence and self-worth. Having confidence helps teenagers make safe, educated decisions. Confident teenagers can have the ability to avoid people and situations that aren’t necessarily right for them, and to find those that are.

Some of the issues around under-age drinking are highlighted here. Some may come as a surprise and some may not. You decide.

• 1 in 2 teenagers in the average South African home is a user of alcohol.
• Almost half the learners (49%) interviewed in a recent high school survey said that they had drunk alcohol at some stage during their school career
• In the same survey, 15% of guys and 8% of girls said that they’d had their first drink before age 13
• Having five or more drinks in a single session is considered to be binge drinking and makes you a problem drinker
• People who begin drinking before the age of 18 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence 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 crime
• Teenagers who drink are far more likely to try illegal drugs. In fact, research shows that 67% of teens who drink before the age of 18 will go on to use illegal drugs. They are 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine
• Some youth start abusing alcohol from age 12 and younger
• 1 in 2 teenagers in the average South African home is a user of alcohol., and they run the risk of becoming addicts
• Almost half the learners (49.1%) interviewed in a recent secondary school survey said that they had drunk alcohol at some stage during their school career
In the same survey, 15% of boys guys and 8% of girls said that they’d had their first drink before age 13
• Having five or more drinks in a single session is considered to be binge drinking and makes you a problem drinker
• And Hhalf of the students who admitted to drinking (23 to -35%) said that they had had a binge drinking session (had drunk five or more drinks on one occasion) in the month before the survey
• Having five or more drinks in a single session is considered to be binge drinking and makes you a problem drinker
• People who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence 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 crime
• Teenagers who drink are far more likely to try illegal drugs. In fact, research shows that 67% of teens who drink before the age of 15 will go on to use illegal drugs. They are 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine
• Some youth start abusing alcohol from age 12. and younger, and schools are being targeted
• 60% of Grade 8-11 learners who abused alcohol in a local research study had to repeat their grade

Why are teens drinking?

Your teenager faces a number of tough decisions daily and peer pressure has a big impact on many of those decisions. Your teen may be afraid that if they say no to something harmful, they won’t be accepted.

Teenagers drink to rebel. Part of being a teenager is rebelling against what their parents or caregivers tell them what to do. But when an angry teenager drinks they become more angry and aggressive. and Tthis could have disastrous results.

Teenagers drink to look cool. Teenagers want to fit in and be a part of the crowd. They often lack self-confidence and alcohol works quickly to get rid of feelings of inferiority.

Teens drink because of peer pressure. This is one of the biggest reasons that teens drink. If their friends drink and they don’t, they run the risk of looking like a nerd. It’s also sometimes the way to join a “cool” group or be one of the crowd.

Teenagers drink because they have no sense of hope: With only half of our youths living in two-parent households, the prospect of 25%-35% unemployment and only a small amount of school leavers finding jobs, the South African teenager faces a very uncertain future.

Teenagers drink to escape. Teenagers often feel frustrated, anxious about how socially acceptable they are, depressed, angry etc. Alcohol is a means of escaping this.

Teenagers drink because they are bored. Some teenagers get bored easily and crave constant excitement and even danger.

What are the risk factors and consequences?
Firstly, it is against the law for people under the age of 18 to buy alcohol. If caught, they could land up with a heavy fine or even spend a period in jail. and get a criminal record.

Crime and violence: teenagers who drink open themselves up to all types of consequences. They increase their risk of being hurt through events such as car accidents or violence; and even killed in car accidents and violent crimes. They may be are also more likely to getting drawn drawn into with crime ,(such as stealing) and to pay for their alcohol. More than 50% of rape sufferers are abused whilst drunk. Girls who drink can also become easy targets for rape (especially date rape).

Risky sexual behaviour: Drinking lowers your defenses and teens that drink are more likely to be sexually active and take unnecessary sexual risks such as unprotected sex. This could result in unwanted pregnancies ,pregnancies,and life threatening sexually transmitted diseases and HIV such as HIV and STD’s.

Problems at school: A study of high school students in Cape Town found a strong connection between binge drinking, school dropouts and low academic aspirations.

Psychological problems: researchers have found symptoms of depression (disturbed sleep, appetite loss and lack of pleasure) associated with teenagers who abuse alcohol. drink. If the teenager has undiagnosed problems, there is also a greater risk of the teenager committing suicide, as they are more impulsive and more likely to act on it.
Physical problems: During their teen years, youths’ brains are still developing and maturing and it takes until they’re in their mid-twenties to fully mature. Alcohol negatively affects the development and this and can create long lasting damage to brain cells and neural brain pathways.

Alcoholism: Teenagers who begin drinking before the age of 185 are much four times more likely to develop a drinking problem than those who only start drinking when they are in their twenties.20 or older. And teenagers who drink are more likely to experiment with other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

What are the signs that your teenager might be drinking?

The following are signs that your teenager might be drinking or have a drinking problem. If at any stage you suspect anything, try your instincts and talk to your child about it immediately.

Some of these signs are normal teenager behaviour. However, if you spot several of them at the same time, or they suddenly appear or are extreme, then they might indicate a drinking problem.

• Mood changes: tempers, irritability, defensiveness or aggression
• Problems at school: missing school and bunking, pretending to be sick and staying at home, low grades, and/or disciplinary action
• Rebelling against family rules
• Changing friends and not wanting to introduce you to the new friends
• Change of attitude and not caring about anything: sloppy dressing, not bathing, brushing hair or teeth, not being interested in activities they were interested in before
• Finding alcohol in your teenager’s room or school bag or smelling alcohol on their breath
• Physical and mental problems: blackouts, not being able to remember events, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination or slurred speech.

“I don’t know what happened, she turned 15 and suddenly got moody and withdrawn. She didn’t feel like my child anymore…then the bad marks started…then I found out she was drinking heavily on weekends. “Mother, 38, Alberton

Be warned that teenagers are less vulnerable than adults to the following effects and are able to hide the amount of alcohol they have drunk:

• Alcohol-induced sedation
• Balance disturbances
• Motor coordination impairments

How can you help?

The introduction of alcohol into the home is a personal matter and is something that parents need to decide on. If a parent does decide to allow access to alcohol, it is important to recognize the risks. How it is introduced, managed and discussed will differ from family to family but it is one of the responsibilities that we as parents have towards theirour children. Teens who have an open and trusting relationship with their parents are less likely to use and abuse alcohol. They are more likely to come to their parents you for advice and help if they know that their parentsyou are there to help instead of criticise or lecture them. In talking with your child about reasons to avoid underage drinking, stay away from scare tactics. Most young teens are aware that many people drink without problems, so it is important to discuss the consequences of underage drinking. Build their self-esteem by telling them that they are too smart and don’t need alcohol to fulfill their dreams.

Discuss great sportspeople, artists, actors, DJs and entrepreneurs with your teen. Many soccer stars’ careers are over by age 30. It is important that they know that if they won’t always get a second shot, so they need to make the best of their talents and opportunities.

Start talking to them about alcohol when they are young. As a parent you should start explaining drinking to your children from the age of about 10 or 11 (grade 5) or even earlier. It needs to start this young as they are probably already talking to friends about it. If you don’t explain the dangers, they could think it’s cool and try a drink when offered. Do not be afraid that you will push them away by talking to them about the problem. Teenagers need to know that you , and believe in them enough to take the time to talk and listen to them. Your involvement can affect their decision-making. and Wwhen they know that someone believes in them and in their future, it hascould have a positive influence in their lives.

Here are some ways to encourage your teenager to talk to you:

• Talk to your child about what interests them. Encourage them to tell you about their lives and their interests. Listen without interrupting.
• Ask questions that they can’t answer with just a “yes” or a “no”. Ask questions that will begin a conversation such as “what do you think about teenagers drinking?”
• Control your reaction. If you’re told something that makes you angry, don’t react immediately. Explain why you don’t approve of the behaviour.
• Don’t lecture or criticise your teenager. If they know that you respect their opinion and aren’t being too controlling, they will be more likely to listen to you and respect your opinion.
• Show that you care. Try to spend one-on-one time with your teens because although they may not show it, it is very important to them that they are important to you.

Help your child be say no. As a parent you can try to be as aware as possible, but the reality is that you can’t be there all the time and your child needs to be able to say “no” and stand up to peer pressure. One of the best ways to handle the issue is to help equip your child to stand up for him/herself and find ways to say “no” without looking like a nerd. For example, “not now thanks, maybe later” or “no thanks, I take my sport seriously so I don’t drink”. You could also encourage them to blame it on you and say “no thanks, my dad will breathalyse me when I get home”.

‘The Positive No’ is a good technique to teach your teen. It will equipsteach your teens to use their power and at the same time preserve their friendship. Unlike an ordinary ‘no’, a ‘Positive No’ begins with a ‘yes’ and ends with a ‘yes’. The Positive No involves, first of all, saying yes to yourself and what is important to you. Here’s an example:

• Yes: “I need to go to soccer practice because I want to be play for South Africa one day.”
• No: “So I cannot go drinking with you.”
• Yes!: “I value our friendship. I still want to hang out with you; I’m just choosing not to drink with you.”

Drink responsibly in front of your teenagers. Children copy the adults around them so drink responsibly around them and you’ll be a great role model.

Don’t encourage underage drinking. Don’t serve alcohol to your teenager or their friends, even if it’s just a light beer. Don’t send your children to buy alcohol for yourself or anyone else.

Find out who your child’s friends are and get to know them. You will quickly be able to spot if there’s trouble and
take steps to fix the situation.

Encourage your teenager to participatejoin in extra mural school activities. If they’re doing something they enjoy, with friends who are like them, then they are less likely to hang around with teenagers who drink because they’re bored. Encourage your teen to participate in controlled after-school and weekend activities that are challenging and fun. If your community doesn’t have after-school activities, consider getting together with other parents and teens to help create some activities for young people in your communitybuild some.

Establish home rules about drinking and the consequences of breaking them. Tell your teenagers what you expect from them and what you think appropriate behaviour is. Also decide what the consequences are if they break your rules and be consistent in enforcing the punishment. Keep in mind that if you are not a drinker, you must not assume that
your children are not drinking.

Build their self-confidence.
Here are some tips to help you and your child build your child’s confidence and resilience:
• Encourage your child to try again if they fail and help them understand that everyone makes mistakes. It’s OK if you can’t do something the first time you try.
• Praise your child’s efforts. If an exam or game doesn’t work out the way your child wanted, try to praise them for the effort they put into the activity. You could also suggest some ideas about what he/she could do differently toso that they can be successful next time.

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