New podcast: Staying cool talking with your teen's school.
Jan. 7, 2022

2: Alcohol. Should we be letting our teenagers drink and what should we be telling them about it? Also, how to stay connected.

2: Alcohol. Should we be letting our teenagers drink and what should we be telling them about it? Also, how to stay connected.

You only have to scan the jokes on birthday cards in the shops to see how much drinking alcohol is ingrained in our culture as both fun and an escape from drudgery.  So there's little wonder that teenagers can be eager to join the club. But when should we let them start, and how do we keep them safe?

And in tangling with our teenagers Alex asks "How do I stay connected with my teenager when they argue, and don’t seem to want me anymore?"

Join Susie and Rachel as we combine the advice of experts, and our own experience, to tackle these problems.

Interesting articles:

The effect of peer pressure on drinking in Denmark:


  • Alcohol Nation by Dr Aric Sigman
  • Love Bombing by Oliver James
  • How to talk so your kids will listen, how to listen so your kids will talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

Definition of Binge Drinking:   The Royal College of Psychiatrists clearly defines binge drinking as drinking over 2.5 standard 175ml glasses of wine (6 units) for a fully-grown adult woman or 3.5 glasses for a man (8 units), in a short space of time. 

Thanks for listening. Creating this podcast has been transformative for our family lives; we hope it does the same for yours.

Please subscribe if you like our podcast, and share it with anyone who might benefit.
You can review us on Apple podcasts by going to the show page, scrolling down to the bottom where you can click on a star then you can leave your message.

Our website has a blog, searchable episodes, and ways to contact us:

Susie is available for a free 15 minute consultation, and has a great blog:


Unknown Speaker  0:02  
Hello, I'm Rachel Richards and welcome to teenagers untangled where we combine research by experts and ideas from other parents to solve your problems. As a parenting coach, I saw the incredible power of getting people together to share ideas and support each other. So welcome. Put up a chair. And let's begin. On today's show, we discuss a question sent in from listener Alex, which is how do I stay connected with my teenager when they argue and don't seem to want me anymore? But first alcohol and your teenager? When do you let them start drinking? Is it the legal age? Or is it younger? How much do you let them drink? When aware? Are they allowed to drink? Do you even have any control over it? With me to help us tackle these topics, again is Susie Azmi, who is a teacher of mindfulness and mother to three teenagers, including twins. Hi, Susie, thanks for being here with us.

Unknown Speaker  0:54  
Hi, Rachel.

Unknown Speaker  0:55  
Now let's start with the official advice. The NHS says children shouldn't drink alcohol until at least 15 years old, and up to the age of 17. It should be rarely and never more than once a week. Meanwhile, the US Department of Health is on record saying underage drinking can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain. Now this is an interesting one because whilst teenagers become legally adult at 18, their brain still have that extreme teenage plasticity until they're almost 25. Finally, in a study of nearly 10,000 Students carried out by Minnesota University, as binge drinking goes up. grade point average goes down. Susie, what do you think you've got a 16 year old?

Unknown Speaker  1:40  
Yeah, well, that was terrifying. And listening to that? Yeah, I have a 16 year old who has, you know, his goes to parties now. And, you know, they drink at parties. He doesn't particularly like he has drunk and he wouldn't mind me saying this. He has done quite a lot once. In my house. Which was a good, I don't know, a good a good way of doing it, if there is a good way of doing it in a safe environment. And we can

Unknown Speaker  2:14  
Did you know, had you discussed it beforehand? So he just found the alcohol, you bought the alcohol?

Unknown Speaker  2:22  
He found it and it was all very harmless. But it was you know, it's, it's my approach was very much you know, I know if you're drinking and he was with a friend? And do you need some help? Rather than, you know, telling him off? Or whatever? What, how would you know, do you need help feel? Can I make you a cup of tea ins and toasts kind of come inside? And? And you know, be well?

Unknown Speaker  2:50  
Did he get the message at all that this wasn't really the right way of doing things? How did you get that message across?

Unknown Speaker  2:56  
Well, I mean, that message was pointless in the moment, because he wasn't really able to converse properly. It wasn't that bad. But so it was that was one of those things where, you know, I had the opportunity to have a think had want to tackle it. And then the next day, how do I bring this up? Rather than, you know, reacting, it was, you know, making a response. And, you know, I did showed them what a shot look like. Now, she just

Unknown Speaker  3:29  
wasn't using shots, he was just drinking, and they were

Unknown Speaker  3:31  
drinking vodka with Coke, which, you know, is quite easy to drink down, isn't it? And, you know, not really knowing what how much it was. And then we had to discuss that and that they understood that there was a sort of a, this is a shot, and this is how much you've drunk, ah. And, you know, they didn't eat enough beforehand, you know, and that they know all of that. But just reminding, you know, this is what you need to do. So that so that you can be healthy and and make better choices next time. And so that it's, you know, it's a one off, it's not, it's really not a big deal. But it would be a big deal if you did that every weekend.

Unknown Speaker  4:12  
And that's a really interesting point. Because when it comes to parenting, for example, going over things, actually makes a big difference. Because often you don't learn things once you have to be reminded, and not in a nagging way, but a sort of. So do you remember that because it's very easy to begin, and there are also so many pressures. I think parents don't all concur on this by any stretch of the imagination and my younger daughter. I hosted a party for her at the age of 13 for her from her law school, and this party was the end of school party very exciting. And I did it them because my reasoning was I don't want to be doing the big parties when they're 16 is much more complicated and Much more. And so I wanted to look like the phone call parent, without having all the drugs or alcohol problems to deal with, because they are, they're fraught. But even then I, you know, one parent said to me, oh, it's really nice for them to have a can of point something cider or beer, just that they feel like they've had something grown up. And so I sort of put that out in the discussion group, and I had one parent objecting very strongly to any of the children having any alcohol, particularly her child. And she said, you know, nothing before, she's 15, I don't even want to start her on that road. And my, my response was, I completely understand and actually no alcohol there. And if you've got one parent in that group, you sort of just have to go with, with what the one parent says. And in a way, it was a bit of a relief, because it just took away that decision for me. But other parents seem to have a much more comfortable relationship. I've been to parties, or to people's houses, where my teenagers is sitting around the table, and people are pouring drinks for them. And I'm saying, No, way. Wait, no, she's, you know, she's 30. And she doesn't look 13. But think, you know, she is only 13. And they just look at me and say, Well, you know, come lighten up. And and often people cite the French response, that you know, that kind of all we know, you will have to bring them up socially responsibly drinking and then then less likely to go off the rails later. Well, don't Eric Sigmund said that people would be surprised to find that in France, they've been reviewing that opinion completely, and is not so much the case anymore.

Unknown Speaker  6:32  
It's the sort quite similar. I mean, I haven't lived in Denmark for 10 years, but we lived there for years and, and they're more relaxed, or they used to be more relaxed with alcohol, I think it's still on my children's to still go over there regularly. And teenagers can buy alcohol earlier, and they visit lots of teenage drinking. And that is the the idea is that you know, if you introduce them, younger than they can manage it. but statistics show that it's the opposite, that there is more problem with teenage drinking, because they start earlier. So the earlier they start to drink,

Unknown Speaker  7:03  
what an interesting point, because again, quoting Dr. Segment, because he had such an impact on me when I heard him talking years before my children were teenagers. And he started huge amounts of research into this. And he said, parents are very scared to tell their children, they shouldn't be doing something, don't smoke, don't drink, don't take drugs, whatever. Because they feel that if they do that, then the children are more likely to rebel and go and, and do it. And he said, all the research they've done states the opposite, that if you tell your children, I'd rather you didn't drink or you don't take drugs or you know, Smokings bad for you, and I don't want you to do it, the less likely they are to either do it. And if they do do it, they will do far less at it,

Unknown Speaker  7:46  
when in the moment when they're offered something that they're unsure about, then they're they're sort of, they get knocked out of they go into survival, I guess in a way they don't really know cuz it's worrying, isn't it? Do I want this? Do I not want this? And then they will rely on what's in their baggage, which is the you know, subconscious. Okay, mom said that mum or dad said that or whatever. And that that will be what will they'll bring up and even if they make a different choice, and they do it anyway, that will still appear in there.

Unknown Speaker  8:15  
You're so you're so right, Susie. And actually that happened to my younger daughter, she had gone to a new school. She two weeks and decided she wanted to go out with her friends. And of course, I want her to have fun and meet up with friends. And these are 13 year olds, and the girls decided that they she wanted to drink. And my daughter's response was, I think I think we're that's illegal. They're in a park and the other girl. Yeah. And the other girl said, no, no, let's get those boys over there to kumbaya sound awesome. And I said to her so Wait, who were these boys? And she said, and I said How old were they? And she said they were 20. And I said those aren't boys, they're men. And I explained to her what jailbait is and that this is a this is a terrible thing to ask a man to do. And but they did it anyway. And they got the vodka bottle of vodka and drank the entire bottle. One girl was responsible for drinking half the bottle. The lovely thing is my daughter told me all of this, as soon as she got in the car, she said, Oh my God, this has just happened. And the other thing that happened was they were all separated up by this when the when this was discovered the school separated each child, the one who drank half a bottle, obviously was very sick, was sent home, vomiting, and everybody said my daughter didn't drink, which is what my daughter had told me. And I said to her, wow, really? What Why Why didn't you drink? And she said because you've told me that it's not safe and it's not. It's not good for me and you don't want me to sue she. She was self parenting. She was relying on the information she'd got for me. And she said to me, what would you have done if had drunk. And I just said, Well, I would have been really disappointed. And she said, What? You wouldn't have shouted at me? And I said, Well, no, I'm not going to shout at you. But I think you're better than that. And I think you know enough about the the problems that your age with drinking, because you're not safe. Because if you're in a park, a public park, first of all, this is your hood. So all these people, you may not know the people who see you, but they're going to know you eventually. And they're going to know you're the girl who sits in the park, drinking alcohol. And also, you're very vulnerable. You're very as soon as you start drinking, and I think this goes for boys as well as girls. And I think people give boys a free pass. But I actually think if you're drinking in a public place, young men are far more likely to get into fights, they're far more likely to have all sorts of other problems happen. If they've been drinking, they're far more likely to possibly do things that are offensive to other guards to girls, you know, all the lot of dangers involved. So I love your approach of actually providing a safe environment where they're going to have to these things.

Unknown Speaker  11:00  
I think it's different on the age, isn't it? I mean, my dad was 16, I think it's very different from a 13 year old. So I would have probably responded in a different way. I don't know what I'd have done, because I haven't experienced that. But it's it's different. But it's, you know, kids are curious, and kids are different as well, some kids will be you know, we, we we deal with rules differently. Like I have three kids, and they deal with rules very differently. You know, one of them would be Oh, mom said that, that's the rules I, I will follow that. And others will be like, Oh, that's the rules, I'm going to do the complete opposite, because that's more fun. We have different personalities. So it's, it's trying to do it, you know, as in anything with without shaming and without judging too much, but with, yeah, doing it from a place of concern. And I

Unknown Speaker  11:46  
think the concern, actually, that is possibly why my daughter took the approach she did because I'd also said, you know, don't ever drink without eating don't don't don't take this cultural desire to stand outside apartment, just drink Hong Kong get drunk. It's not if this is not the approach. And so she had said to the girls, oh, we need to eat something. But again, my point is that, you know, I obviously had started having this discussion with her very young. Yeah, well, before she was ever going to be having to deal with these problems. And and it protected her because in the instance where she was confronted with a difficult situation, because even as adults, we get confronted with situations where we think oh, you know, you get pressurized, Oh, aren't you drinking? Why aren't you having some kind of defense is going to make it easier for them if they don't want to. And if they you know, have it keeping the like you did with your son where you sat down and said how can I support you and I think if the our children feel like we're on their side and that the only reason we're saying this stuff is because we want them to be safe stay say not

Unknown Speaker  12:53  
catastrophizing, it I mean, if they if they can, you know, I've made many mistakes. Hundreds, and, you know, working out well, which, which one is okay? You've done that once, twice, maybe you know, okay. It's really not the end of the world and let's have a look at it if we need to, is when it becomes a regular thing, or it's clearly an issue that is different. And again, it always comes back to the you know the connection you have with your kid.

Unknown Speaker  13:16  
Yes, our email address is help at teenagers We'd love to hear from you. Now this next session is about tangling with teenagers a chance for us to take a particular problem and try to offer you some solutions. In this episode, we tackle a question sent in by Alex, how do I stay connected with my teenager when they argue and don't seem to want me anymore? I mean, I was talking to my hairdresser about this the other day. He's the same age as me and has clearly lived a rock'n'roll life. He's got the tattoos, he's got the ear piercings and the hairstyle. He said his daughter has told him he's boring and doesn't want to talk to him. Ouch. And he said, How can she feel that way? I used to do the hair of of all these supermodels. I used to be on the fashion shows and things and he said when he mentioned their names she just looked at me went like who?

Unknown Speaker  14:12  
totally irrelevant. Your dad you're boring. And

Unknown Speaker  14:16  
so Susie, what do you think? How do you stay connected with your kids?

Unknown Speaker  14:20  
It's hard, isn't it? I mean, I have three kids. I have two who are almost 14 and one who's 16 and they've you know different personalities that different genders I think that makes a difference too. And I have noticed I did notice I kind of felt I went from because I parent my kids on my own you know went from that I just want five minutes apiece on my own you know, go to the loo shut the door. Just two minutes please. No one talked to me. And then overnight, I was felt I was standing in the kitchen going anyone want to hang out and they were gone. I don't know how that there wasn't a transition. It wasn't I I think and suddenly they're you know, they have their own worlds which is totally normal, healthy and brilliant. And, but it can be really difficult. And I think the more you push into bond the connection, the more they go by. And then you realize their social life so much better than Oh, god. Yeah. And suddenly, I did read a thing. What was it, it was a really brilliant quote that really resonated it was parenting teenagers is a part time activity and full time availability, which really resonated so you have to be available available at any point, you're not so hands on all the time. And it's because we're not suddenly we have more time or more, more space in a way, but we still need to be available. And I think we just need to partly Get A Life ourselves. I'm up for that. And partly appreciate the little, little moments that we get. So I've talked to other friends about this, you know, when you have a car journey, especially especially it sounds very sexist. I know. But especially with boys Maybe. Or maybe just because my eldest is avoiding car journeys are awesome. You know, you have, nobody has to have eye contact, and you can have amazing conversations. Maybe it's only 10 minutes, and maybe that actually fills the hole rather than going I want a whole afternoon with you.

Unknown Speaker  16:25  
Because it's not it's not about quality, or quantity. It's about quality. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  16:28  
And just checking in just checking in. And then I find with mine, I don't know if you find with yours, but my definitely my eldest wakes up at about 11pm When I really would like to be crawling into bed. And sometimes, you know, you just I just feel I have to drop everything and go, Okay, well, let's do a fry up at 11pm. Because you're going to talk, and you might not want to for a whole week. Kind of grabbing the moments, I

Unknown Speaker  16:54  
think, and what you said about being in the car. I think the most excruciating question I've ever had was when my children were sitting in the back of the car, and I was sitting in the front, because I think that they took that moment and my husband wasn't there, they took that moment because there was going to be no eye contact. And we want to know what that was talking about sex. For me, I the way I approached it was I'd years ago heard about something called a love bond, where you reconnect my husband in 24 hours with your young child. And this was specifically related to young children who were causing problems. I tried it with my oldest child, it was a disaster. And I thought that didn't work. And then when they got a bit older, I thought, I try that again. So what I did was I said to both my girls who turned double digits, and we're going to have some time away on our own. And I'm fortunate enough to be able to, you know, book a weekend away with my children. So we I got them to choose where they thought would be really good. The first child came with her bucket list, which was the Great Wall of China and okay, that's your bucket list, darling, that's not

Unknown Speaker  18:06  
local cafe will do.

Unknown Speaker  18:09  
But, but I started off by saying, I'm really I love that you are aiming high. So keep that that can be your bucket list is not happening. And with each of them, I went away for an extended weekend, just the two of us. And it was a chance to change gears, it was a challenge to reconnect where we were simply one to one, talking about anything walking in the streets, sitting in cafes. And it was very interesting, the sort of sorts of questions that came up during that weekend. And I use the time to be very explicit about how our relationship was changing. And to say to them, we I am no longer going to be telling you what you should do all the time. Because you don't need that you're now turning into a young adult, you are going to be a woman and you're now in that training ground where it's up to you to start making decisions that that will support you for the rest of your life. So my job is to sit next to you and discuss things and question what you're doing and help him support you. Yeah, and they and it's been the making of our relationships where we're now with both of my children, I'm very close with them because they, they realize it took the second one longer to get that and she still there was a there was a there was a moment where I realized she'd been lying to me and I was very upset about it. And I challenged her and all she said and I think she'd been told by her friends that's what you do kind of like your parents. And I told her that the impact of lying that once you've been lied to once it's very hard to regain that trust. And I think you have to have these difficult conversations and tell them that this is how it impacts your relationship. And then I said to her Sweetie, you know these friends of yours that are giving you a FEIS, I have no doubt that they care about you. And they're important to you and they're special. But let me tell you the 13. And they didn't know, they didn't really know anything more than you know. And I've got another 14 years on that, and of life experience, and there's no one in the world, who's going to love you as much as I love you and want you to succeed as much as I want you to succeed. So we need to have this open channel where I'm going to, I'm going to just give you some help.

Unknown Speaker  20:33  
I love that. And I love the idea of spending time with each kid on their own. And, you know, it's a huge privilege to be able to do that. And there's lots of people who wouldn't, whether they're parenting alone, or, but it's, it doesn't need to be like, I've done, I've done that sometimes with my kids too, which has been wonderful. Really difficult, because apparently, trying to organize it, but it doesn't have to be a big thing. It could just be, you know, at home half an hour, we're gonna sit and do a puzzle together or, or watch a movie together or, you know, just sits for, you know, half an hour, but just the feeling that you are prioritizing them. And you have that space that is uninterrupted, I think is really important and really beautiful. But it doesn't, it doesn't have to be complicated, and they do appreciate it. And also the, I don't know, sometimes when they get older as well, we have these great ideas, and we'll do this we'll do that and, and they might not want to. And, and I have a little mantra, which I practice, which sometimes works sometimes doesn't. Nothing is personal. When they get to a certain age, it's not personal. If they say to you, I don't want to do that. That sounds really boring. I want to go and do that. It's so it can be quite painful. You know, they hate me, though. They're not like me, but you know, they don't want to it's a rejection, isn't it? But it isn't. It's just it's just being them. They wanted to go into something else. It's not personal. I mean, it can be but it's 95% not personal. And it's really helpful to remember that.

Unknown Speaker  22:06  
Yes. And when when when your child says, Oh, can you come into Tik Tok with me? And I don't really feel like it. Right? Yeah. That needs to be both of you realizing that they're asking you to do something with them. And you can't always be like, No, we're not it's not our job to be always be be doing things we don't want to do. But actually explaining that and saying, you know, that's really important to you. But it's important to me, and I don't really find it enjoyable. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  22:30  
but let's do this. Instead of being curious about the people they're becoming because the key because, you know, they, they are their own person. And it's it's really fun hearing what they think about stuff. And then as they're experimenting with their thoughts, their ideas. Yeah, amazing. And one day, they'll grunt and not say very much, and that's fine. But tomorrow, maybe they'll come with some great political opinion. And you go whoa. And then they go back to grunting the next day, you know, and that is just all part of it.

Unknown Speaker  23:04  
Next week on teenagers untangled in the words of a brilliant book, how do you listen so your teenagers will talk? And how do you talk so your teenagers will listen? And we tackle Helen's question. My 16 year old is dating and says he's in love. What do I do if he brings her home and wants her to stay the night? Do I put them in the same room or separate them? What would you advise Helen to do? You can reach us by using the email help at teenagers or join our discussion forum on Facebook. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast and tell your friends.