Parenting can be challenging at the best of times, but it may be particularly challenging during recent restrictions when children and teens are under your care 24/7. Tensions and anxieties can run high, so it is really important that you, as parents, care for yourselves.
While young people are influenced by many sources including peers, the media and teachers, it is parents generally who have the most significant influence on their behaviour including if and when they drink alcohol. Teaching your child healthy behaviour rather than trying to stop dangerous behaviour by using fear or scare tactics is important.
You are your child’s mirror. They learn from you, at an early age, how to be in tune with or not in tune with their emotions. A child can become infected with happiness from observing good behaviour and have a very positive impression of the world around them. A child can also be infected with unhappiness from observing poor or negative behaviour. The question is: What do you as a parent want your child to learn from you? You model social behaviour for your child including how to celebrate achievements, how to cope with stress, how you manage conflicts and how you relate with others. You teach them about relationships, managing challenges, resilience and embracing opportunities.
You also teach your child about alcohol. What is it you want them to learn? At a young age, especially during the teen years, attitudes to alcohol and drinking habits for the future will be formed. Young people recognise that parents are the most important influence in their lives by the example you set, the rules and boundaries you have in place and by how much freedom you allow them. Research shows if parental monitoring is in place, then teens are much less likely to begin to use alcohol at an early age.1 Early parental supply of alcohol is associated with increased risks.2 There is also evidence that a young person who starts consuming alcohol at 15 years old or younger is four times more likely to have a negative relationship with alcohol later in life.3
Young people need you to talk to them. Research commissioned by Drinkaware (2016) shows that young people see parents as the ones they listen to about alcohol.4 By talking to your teen about alcohol you will be empowering them to understand alcohol and its effects and help them to make informed decisions about alcohol in the future.
Young people need to know how alcohol negatively affects the body and mind, why young bodies are unable to cope with alcohol and the impact of alcohol on both the developing brain and the developing liver.
The following tips may help you to have the conversation:
For information on Drinkaware parent workshops (virtual/online), contact Martha Sweeney, Drinkaware Education Programme Manager.
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