Young People and Alcohol: Separating the Facts From The Myths

Young People and Alcohol: Separating the Facts From The Myths

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We regularly run parent workshops across the country as part of our dedicated parents’ campaign. Ultimately our goal is to delay the age young people in Ireland have their first drink but to make this a reality, we strongly believe that parents have a crucial role to play. The workshop includes a Q&A section, a time when we can open up the discussion to allow parents the opportunity to share experiences, seek advice and separate the facts from the myths about young people and alcohol.

Ahead of the Junior Cert results being released next week, this is a great time to have a conversation about alcohol with your children. To help inform this, we wanted to share the most common things we hear from parents at our workshops and an explainer as to why they just aren’t true.

  • Myth: "Why would I need to get information to talk about alcohol? I know all about it."
    Fact: Getting the facts about young people and alcohol is crucial to having an informed conversation, rather than one based on assumptions or misinformation. Take some time to understand why young people might start drinking alcohol. There are many different reasons for this and every young person is different. This is an important conversation and getting these facts beforehand will help to make you more confident and the talk more useful for your child.
    Tip: Order a free Parent Pack with two booklets containing the facts about young people and alcohol, the impact on mental health and support to help guide the conversation.
  • Myth: "Kids – especially teenagers - don’t listen to their parents anyway."
    Fact: Children and teenagers need and respond to boundaries, even if sometimes it might not feel like this is true. Evidence suggests that clear rules around alcohol help children understand what is expected of them. However, you can’t expect your children to abide by rules that they didn’t know existed, so it’s important to make sure that you communicate your rules clearly. A good way to do this is to have an open discussion and agree rules around alcohol together with your child. Rules are more likely to be kept if they are negotiated and agreed.
    Tip: Download our Smart Agreement to agree together your expectations around alcohol and consequences for breaking these rules.
  • Myth: "There’s no real harm in giving them a few drinks at home."
    Fact: The most common reason we hear for this is that parents anticipate their children will drink outside of the home anyway, so they would prefer this to happen under their supervision instead. Of course, this is a personal decision for every parent and each will have differing reasons for or against the practice but it can be useful to to get all the facts first. Did you know that research shows that young people who are introduced to alcohol by parents at home are just as likely to binge drink outside of the home than those who were not? In fact, our own research found that in Ireland, 14% of parents feel it is acceptable for their children to drink at home before 15 years (a 5% increase from research in 2015).  It's also important to remember that it is illegal to supply alcohol to minors without the explicit consent of their parents.
    Tip: There are a range of risks associated with drinking alcohol from a young age, some you may know and others that may surprise you. Find out more about the risks
  • Myth: "My child is going to do whatever their friends do, no matter what I say."
    Fact: We hear this so often but it just isn’t true. Parents are the single strongest influence on their child’s attitudes and future behaviours towards alcohol. The evidence consistenly shows this time and time again and we hope that parents are empowered by this, especially when it comes to alcohol. Being a positive role model and setting an example when it comes to your child’s relationship and understanding of alcohol is very important. As you know, children learn a lot by watching their parents so if you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, you are showing your children how to do the same.
    Tip: Think about your own drinking habits and the messages this behaviour might be sending. Have you tried our Drinks Calculator? It can help to make it easier to understand what you are really drinking, so you can make informed decisions.
  • Myth: "Doesn’t everyone drink when they’re young?"
    Fact: Every teenager drinks, especially on results night – right? Wrong! The most recent research shows that young people in Ireland are drinking less. Challenge this perceived norm - that everyone drinks before they are 18 years old (the legal drinking age) - and use it to open a discussion with your young person about how they feel about alcohol or how they would feel if friends were drinking alcohol in their company. Children can feel overwhelmed by different things going on in their lives, particularly at a potentially stressful and emotional time like this with the upcoming results from the most important exams of their lives to date but building strong resilience will help them to bounce back and cope with adversity. While some may decide to drink alcohol before they reach 18 years, there are an increasing number who choose not to. It is up to each individual to make their own decision on this and parents can help by making sure their children have the resiliency skills needed to know their own mind.
    Tip: Read our tips for helping your children to build a range of resiliency skills.

Visit our Parent Page for more facts, advice and resources