What parents and caregivers can do

Many of us are concerned that at some stage we, and our teens, will come face to face with the issue of alcohol and teenage drinking.

Helping them keep safe is part of being a parent. Your advice and support is critical even though it may not always be welcomed.

Advice for parents of children and young people under 18 years

The advice from Te Hiringa Hauora/Health Promotion Agency is -

Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for children and young people under 18 years.

Those under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking alcohol and not drinking in this age group is especially important.

For young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay drinking for as long as possible.

If 15 to 17-year-olds do drink alcohol, they should be supervised, drink infrequently and at levels usually below and never exceeding the adult daily limits.

What you can do

As a parent or caregiver, there are things you can do to help reduce the impact of alcohol on your teenage children. They may not be easy for everyone but these are the things that are proven to make the most difference in young people’s drinking.


Delay your teenager’s introduction to alcohol as long as possible. Most teens obtain alcohol from a parent, caregiver or other family member. 

Although you may feel that introducing alcohol to your teenagers is a way of teaching them to be responsible, research shows that the younger your kids or teens start drinking, the more likely it is that they will go on to drink harmfully in their late teens and adult life.

Delaying starting drinking can help them avoid a range of harms.

Small amounts

Teenagers have lower tolerance to alcohol than adults and suffer disproportionally harm from alcohol use. If you decide to supply your teen with alcohol, give only small amounts and never exceed the low risk daily maximum amounts for adults.

Find out more about recommended adult daily amounts.

Find out more about standard drinks

Parties and supervision

Consider having an alcohol-free party if children and teens will be there.

If you are having a party where alcohol is being served, you or a trusted adult need to actively supervise the party. Your involvement needs to be visible. Even if you don’t stay in the same room all the time, young people will be safer if adults are moving through the party regularly. Serving food achieves this effortlessly.

If your teen is going to a party where alcohol is present, the adult hosts must have your express consent to supply alcohol to your teenager. This is the law.

When contacting the host, it is also the perfect time to ask about time and place, supervision, alcohol and transport arrangements, and staying over. You may get a hard time on this front from your teenager but persist. Do it openly. Tell them it’s not about lack of trust, but it is simply the law and you are looking out for their safety.

Role modelling

As parents or caregivers, you are probably the most important role model in your children’s lives.

From the start, the attitude you model towards alcohol and the way you drink influences whether, or how, your child will drink in the future.

If you drink, model low-risk drinking. Establish and follow your personal rules for drinking responsibly, and be prepared to explain these rules to your teenager. When you don’t ‘walk the talk’, this adds to the conflicting messages young people receive around alcohol.

If you have young adults (18+) living at home, encourage them to be good role models for their younger family members.

Good relationships

Having a close and supportive relationship with your teenager is a hugely protective influence. Teens are less likely to misuse alcohol if parents are involved in their life in positive ways. A good relationship with your teenager will influence how effective your efforts are in protecting them from alcohol misuse, and increase the likelihood that they will seek help from you if they are faced with an issue regarding alcohol.

Discuss your expectations around their alcohol consumption -

  • Spell them out and discuss why they’re important.
  • Be reasonable. Being either too strict or too easygoing doesn’t work.
  • Decide together what should happen when rules are broken, such as a grounding, loss of privileges, extra chores.
  • Follow through and apply the consequences. Both parents need to agree on and stick to the same rules – particularly if they’re not living together. If your partner or ex won’t support you, get other family members or friends to help. 

Ways to build and maintain a good relationship with your teenager -

  • Set a good example.
  • Let them know they’ve ‘got what it takes’.
  • Regularly demonstrate you care about them.
  • Be consistent and create open communication between yourself and your teen is vital.
  • Follow through on promises and enforce rules to build trust.
  • Be involved in their life.
  • Help them feel good about themselves.
  • Help them deal with problems and stress.