Parenting Teens-A Call to Action

Text reads have you had a conversation with your teen about alcohol. Image is 4 young people walking

3 minute read. 

The impact of your relationship with your teen/child lasts a lifetime. The quality of your relationship and connection with your teen is important to their development and the decisions they make. A warm, loving relationship and being fully present to your teen, with positive, healthy role modelling can protect them from unhealthy risk-taking. The stronger and healthier your relationship is, the greater the influence you will have (ESRI 2021). It is a big responsibility to be a good role model which does not happen accidentally. It requires effort, thought, reflection and self-control. Be intentional in the behaviours you model.  

As a parent/guardian you can be a protector from or enabler of underage drinking for your teen. The findings in the independent evaluation of Drinkaware’s Junior Cycle Alcohol Education Programme (2021) raised questions about the role of parents in the way they themselves portray/model and think about, plus fully understand the drinking of alcohol in the home. 48%-49% of students in years 1 and 3 and 57% in year 2 had first consumed alcohol either in their own home or at someone else’s home. Most said they had no difficulty accessing alcohol and especially as they got older with only 1 in 4 in year 3 reporting they got into trouble with their parents for drinking, although typically on one occasion.  


  • Are you aware of the powerful role you play as a parent/guardian in shaping your teenager’s attitudes and beliefs about alcohol? (Smit et al 2020).
  • What do you want your young person to know and believe about alcohol and is this consistent with the message they receive and learn from the way you behave around and use alcohol? (Sharmin et al 2019).
  • Do you frequently drink at home in front of your teen and if so, what message are you giving them? (Drinkaware 2020).
  • Is alcohol central in social gatherings for you and what message is that giving your teen? 
  • What positive expectations might your teen have about alcohol and its effects from their observations of your drinking? (Garcia & Sanchez 2020).
  • How might your behaviour as a parent influence the selection of peers your teen chooses to hang around with? 
  • What opportunities does your teen have to observe you enjoying yourself without alcohol? (Drinkaware 2021).
  • What non-alcohol related recreational activities do you engage in? 
  • If your teen were to describe your drinking behaviour, what would they say? (Bryant et al, 2020).
  • If your teen were to give a reason why you drink, what would they say? (Drinkaware 2020).
  • Have you had the conversation with your teen about your attitudes, beliefs and expectations regarding  their behaviour around alcohol? (Litt et al. 2020).
  • Does your teen understand your expectations of them around alcohol? 
  • Have you set clear boundaries regarding it being unacceptable for your teen to drink? (Hurley et al, 2019).
  • Are you and your teen clear on the consequences if the boundaries are not maintained? 
  • Do you think it unacceptable for you to give alcohol at home to an under 18year old? (Aiken et al, 2020; Boland et al, 2020; Clare et al, 2020).
  • Is alcohol easily accessible and visible in your home? 
  • Are you aware of the negative impact of giving alcohol to your teen including its impact on the developing brain, body, emotions and mind? 

Remember the actions you take as a parent/guardian can reduce the possibility your teen will drink or drink in harmful ways. 

Delaying the age of first drink is everyone’s responsibility. 

You are your child’s first and PRIMARY teacher and the most important influence on their behaviour.  What a child sees and believes impacts who and what they become.  

Disapproval of underage drinking needs to be clearly and consistently conveyed to your teen. This needs to be matched with positive role modelling. Your relationship with your teen can have lifelong consequences. It is important to ensure it is a positive one. (ESRI 2021)1 

What you do is as important as what you say! 

“It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people’s lives.”

Clint Eastwood. 

If you would like more information on our parent workshops or our Alcohol Education Programme email Education Manager Martha. You can read our Families, Alcohol & Covid-19 research paper here.

Read our blog from Research & Impacts Manager Dr Ann Stokes: The crucial role of parents in shaping their children’s attitudes & use of alcohol.


ESRI (2021) Research Series No. 119 Risk and Protective Factors in Adolescent Behaviour-  the role of family, school and neighbourhood characteristics in (mis)behaviour among young people.  Emer smyth and Merike Darmody 

McGilloway, S. & J. Weafer (2021) Evaluation of Drinkaware’s Junior Cycle Alcohol Education Programme (JC AEP) 2018-2020: Summary Report 

Smit, K. et al. (2020). Alcohol expectancies change in early to middle adolescence as a function of the exposure to parental alcohol use. Drug and alcohol dependence, 211, 107938. 

Sharmin, S. et al. (2019). Parent hazardous drinking and their children’s alcohol use in early and mid-adolescence: prospective cohort study. European journal of public health, 29(4), 736-740. 

Drinkaware (2020) Understanding (intentional/unintentional) binge drinking at home. www.Drinkaware-Research-Report-Understanding-Binge-Drinking-at-Home-in-Ireland-2020%20(5).pdf 

Garcia, L.P. & Z.M. Sanchez (2020) Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic: a necessary reflection for confronting the situation. Scielo Public Health, 36 (10)

Drinkaware (2021) Barometer 2020 Research Paper Series. Families, Alcohol & COVID-19. 

Bryant, L., MacKintosh, A. M., & Bauld, L. (2020). An exploration of the impact of non-dependent parental drinking on children. Alcohol and alcoholism, 55(1), 121-127. 

Aiken, A. et al. (2020). Parental supply of sips and whole drinks of alcohol to adolescents and associations with binge drinking and alcohol-related harms: A prospective cohort study. Drug and alcohol dependence, 215, 108204 

Litt, D. M. et. al. (2020). Examining the associations between alcohol-related parental communication, alcohol use, and protective behavioral strategy use among young adults. Addictive behaviors, 107, 106398.

Hurley, E., Dietrich, T., & Rundle-Thiele, S. (2019). A systematic review of parent based programs to prevent or reduce alcohol consumption in adolescents. BMC public health, 19(1), 1-14.

Boland, V. C. et al. (2020). The association between parental supply of alcohol and supply from other sources to young people: a prospective cohort. Addiction, 115(11), 2140-2147 

Clare, P. J. et al. (2020). The overall effect of parental supply of alcohol across adolescence on alcohol‐related harms in early adulthood—a prospective cohort study. Addiction, 115(10), 1833-1843.