Tough Teen Topics: Alcohol

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Tough Teen Topics: Alcohol

“Tough Teen Topics” – From the desk of the Counsellors at SMS, we want to begin dialogue about challenging issues that face teens around the world, and especially in the UAE. Often due to cultural and legal issues, we avoid talking about some topics to prevent offense. However, we believe education for both parents and teens is essential in this globalized world. Education and awareness brings wise decision-making. Our aim is simply to look objectively at issues and provide education and awareness amidst many cultural views.


There is no safe amount of alcohol for the developing brain. Young people’s brains continue to develop until they are 25 years old. The best thing is for young people not to drink at all, and delay the age they start drinking as much as possible.

Let us start this discussion with an example from our own local UAE newspapers reporting on the reality of alcohol use in teens:

Talk about reality check… So how can we help young people and the pressures they face?

Here in the United Arab Emirates we are less exposed to alcohol through media and advertising. While there are many legal restrictions in the UAE for buying and consuming alcohol, norms for certain cultures are more relaxed, which can influence and create a curiosity among young people regarding alcohol. In the social learning theory (Albert Bandura), learning refers to discovering things by watching other people. Teenagers sometimes learn to drink, smoke or act in a certain way by watching their parents, older siblings, or peers. In today’s globalized world, even when our own culture restricts the use of alcohol, young people are exposed to the pressures of it. The above article implores us as parents to not assume that living in the UAE means our children will not face these pressures.

Portrait of a very sad single man sitting alone and drinking outside in a restaurant terrace

Education is key! In my experience with young people, there is a lack of knowledge associated with alcohol and its dangers. When I’ve run educational sessions with young people on alcohol and asked “Where do you get your information?” the majority say from peer groups or they have heard it from a friend of a friend. We understand young people’s battles to feel accepted within their social groups and that they will at some point experience ‘peer pressure’. It can be extremely difficult to avoid peer pressure completely because socializing is part of being a young person. When the only thing you want is be part of a group, it often seems impossible to walk away from peer pressure.

Educating young people provides them with the necessary tools to be able to make independent, and informed choices. Young people tend to understand behaviour that has an element of risk involved and behaviour that does not. For them it’s about weighing up the pros and cons. A young person that understands the risks of drinking alcohol is more likely to say ‘No’ in a peer pressure situation based on the knowledge of risk involved.

So what can you do?

  • Take an interest in your children’s life, their likes, dislikes and establish open honest communication.
  • Talk early and often in an educational, developmentally appropriate way about the risks of alcohol.
  • Allow your child to ask questions, don’t be judgmental, be supportive and informative.
  • Encourage your children’s growing independence, but set appropriate limits.
  • Encourage your child to invite friends over so that you can get to know who they are spending their time with. This will allow you to get to know their parents too.
  • Involve your child in family life. The more they understand your outlook on family life, expectations and boundaries, the better they will be prepared in their life.
  • Set clear rules, including rules about alcohol use. Enforce the rules you set.
  • Help your children find ways to have fun without alcohol.
  • Do not let your children attend parties at which alcohol is served.

Alistair Dale
Wellbeing Coach, Sunmarke Secondary

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