Supporting Teenagers overview
This information is particularly useful for parents of teenagers who may fear the prospect of talking about alcohol and other drugs with their children because it could raise questions that they feel unable to answer or explain appropriately.
What is supporting teenagers?
The Supporting Teenagers toolkit outlines a number of evidence-informed approaches to help prevent and reduce alcohol and other drug-related harms in teenagers. These include upskilling parents to talk with their child about alcohol and other drugs, and working with parents and other people who influence teenagers (e.g. coaches) to encourage safe partying during adolescence.
Which target audience should programs supporting teenagers focus on?
This resource focuses on improving outcomes for teenagers aged 12–17 years. The resources outlined in this toolkit are designed primarily for parents of teenagers. The information provided is particularly useful for parents of teenagers who may be reluctant to talk about alcohol and other drugs with their children because it could raise questions that they feel unable to answer or explain appropriately.
In addition to parents, these resources can also be useful for people who are known to influence teenagers. These people are referred to in this resource as ‘key influencers’. Key influencers include coaches, peers, teachers, grandparents and siblings.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) defines a parent as an adult who is the primary caregiver to a child. In addition to a child’s biological parent, this may include grandparents, step-parents, foster parents or other carers.
How does supporting teenagers help prevent alcohol and drug-related issues?
Parents can have a major influence on their teenager’s drinking behaviour by helping prevent them from beginning drinking alcohol or from engaging in harmful use. Supporting teenagers increases the knowledge, skills and capacity of parents and other key influencers to prevent alcohol and other drug-related harms in teenagers.
Strengthening the skills and understanding of parents and key influencers can help to improve communication and relationships with teenagers. This can open opportunities for discussion about alcohol and other drug-related issues. Role modelling responsible drinking can help to reduce alcohol and other drug harms and improve a range of social and health outcomes.
How effective is supporting teenagers?
One of the most important things we can do to reduce ‘lifetime risk’ from alcohol and other drug use and protect children against alcohol and other drug-related harm is to increase the confidence, skills and knowledge of parents. Young people view their parents as credible sources of information, and parental beliefs and behaviours (e.g. modelling responsible drinking) affect many children. Research has consistently shown that improving parent and parent-teen communication reduces early initiation of alcohol and other drug use.
Strengthening parental knowledge and communication about alcohol and other drugs helps improve parenting practices and create family environments that reduce the risks of alcohol and other drug use. It can also promote ‘protective factors’ which can help protect teenagers from alcohol and other drug-related harm. These factors include creating a sense of belonging or connectedness within families.
Programs and activities which support teenagers help to forge better relationships within families and across the community. They have been shown to be an effective way to improve a range of social and health outcomes, including a reduction in AOD harm.
- Parenting Research Centre 2012, Evidence review: an analysis of the evidence for parenting interventions in Australia.
- Triple P Stay positive in action
- Spirito A, Hernandez L, Cancilliere MK, Graves H, Knopik VS, Barnett N. (2015) Improving parenting and parent-teen communication to delay or prevent the onset of alcohol and drug use in young adolescents with emotional/behavioural disorders: A pilot trial. J Child Adolescent Substance Abuse.