Education Matters: Parents Can Play an Active Role in Alcohol Education
As a parent, you are the single strongest influence of all external factors on your child’s attitudes and future behaviours around alcohol. We say this a lot but it’s true. Our research shows that in Ireland, the first drink is more often than not given by parents or close relatives. We also know that early exposure to alcohol, including parental consumption, is significantly associated with earlier initiation to and subsequent use of alcohol.
The reality is that the earlier a person starts drinking alcohol, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related problems in later life. Effective alcohol education requires a whole schol approach involving a range of stakeholders including parents and the wider community. Be empowered by your unique influence as a parent and role model to help your young person to make healthier and more informed decisions around alcohol in the future.
Do you know your teenager?
Before your start the conversation about alcohol with your teenager, ask yourself these five questions.
- Can you name your child’s three best friends?
- How much money does your child have access to and what do they spend it on?
- Have you recently spoken with your child about alcohol? Do you know their current attitude towards alcohol use?
- Are they aware of your rules in relation to alcohol use and the consequences for breaking them?
- Have you ever considered the impact of your own drinking or the messages you give about drinking.
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Five reasons why you should talk to your teen about alcohol
- Young people need their parents to direct and support them. They look to parents for guidance on making decisions. At our workshops, parents often ask us if there is any point in talking to their teenager about alcohol. Well if you don’t, who will? If you think you have no influence, then who has?
- You play an important role in shaping your young person’s attitudes and behaviours around alcohol. Your teen listens more to what you say and is influenced by your behaviour and attitudes more than you may realise, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. Your drinking habits and the messages you send about alcohol can have a strong influence on your teenager’s views.
- It matters that you actively encourage your young person to delay their first drink as long as possible. Not only can alcohol affect the developing brain, it will increase the risk of experiencing accidents, injuries and violence.
- It’s worth remembering that teenagers who drink under parental supervision are more likely to binge drink unsafely than those who are encouraged to keep the legal age limit of 18. This practice is common in Ireland but the evidence just doesn’t support the belief that this will help to develop a healthier attitude towards alcohol in the future.
- Don’t assume that your child is not drinking but most of their friends are. Even if your child is not drinking, they may be under pressure to do so. Keeping quiet could give the message you give your permission for this to happen. Most young people don’t drink, so by initiating the conversation early and continuing it often, you can help to reinforce this fact.
How can we help?
Drinkaware facilitates parents’ workshops across the country. These are typically booked through a schools parents’ association. The workshop features the latest research, advice and supports to help parents to start the conversation about alcohol. Our Education Programme Manager, Martha Sweeney, is on hand to discuss your needs.