Let’s support our Leaving Cert students to safely mark the occasion by speaking to them about alcohol

Let’s support our Leaving Cert Students: Drinkaware the national charity working to prevent and reduce the misuse of alcohol is advising students and parents to have a conversation about mental health and alcohol prior to the leaving cert results being released this Friday.  

The call comes as Drinkaware’s annual Barometer 2021 found that 72% of 18–24-year-olds report coping as a motivation for drinking, which includes, ‘Because it helps you when you feel depressed or anxious & ‘to cheer up when you are in a bad mood or stressed’ (Compared to 61% national average).  

The Leaving Cert results can bring a mixture of emotions for students: for some it will be a celebration, but for others they may feel disappointment, stress, and worry ahead of the CAO offers. Either way, receiving your Leaving Cert results is a major milestone and all students deserve to celebrate their results. The charity is advising parents to speak to the young person about their feelings, and to communicate clear boundaries to help them celebrate safely.  

Advice for Parents: 

  1. Be caring and supportive: Encourage open dialogue and remind your children that they can share their problems with you without judgement. 
  1. Inform them: Remind them that alcohol is a depressant and although it might make them feel better in the short term it can increase anxiety and depression. Using drink to boost mood or confidence, or to commiserate, will often have the opposite effect.  
  1. Plan ahead: Ask them to share their plans with you and ask how they would like to celebrate and with whom. Discussing safe ways they can keep within the public health guidelines, agree boundaries, and make sure that you are both fully informed and comfortable with the plans. 
  1. Talk about alcohol: Discuss whether alcohol will be involved, the peer pressure they may experience, and different ways they can comfortably manage that. It’s important that they are aware how alcohol, especially excessive drinking, might impact on their behaviour and wellbeing. 
  1. Check in with other parents: Talk to other parents to share your rules around celebrations and socialising. It’s likely that other parents will have similar concerns about how to safely manage gatherings. Speaking to other parents will help you to assess the potential impact of external influences.  
  1. Come up with alternatives: Discuss the celebratory and socialising options, with regard to alternative activities to mark the occasion, and alternative drinks to alcohol.  
  1. Don’t assume they will drink alcohol: Younger adults are leading the global ‘sober curious’ movement amid a desire to prioritise health. Encourage your teenager to embrace this alcohol-free lifestyle. 
  1. Mind your own mental health: This has been a stressful time for parents too. Stay calm and manage your own anxieties before you talk to your children. Being a positive role model and setting an example around alcohol is very important. When you use coping and celebratory strategies that don’t involve alcohol, it is showing your young person how to deal with problems in a healthy way. 

Drinkaware is highlighting the consistent figure of circa 1 in 4 adults who do not drink, and also that young people are the ones spearheading the ‘sober curious’ movement where physical and mental health are a priority. Drinkaware’s advice to students is to embrace the ‘sober curious’ movement and if you plan on having alcohol as part of your celebration (for those who are 18 and over), to do so mindfully.  

Spun Out, Ireland’s youth information website created by young people, for young people has provided a list of tips and advice on how to make the most of the Leaving Cert results night, these include:  

  • Think about what you drink: Not everyone will be drinking on exam results night and you shouldn’t feel pressured into it just because your friends are. But if you do decide to consume alcohol, don’t mix your drinks. It’ll only increase the chances of you getting more drunk and sick the morning after. Although you may want to pre-drink as to spend less money, if you drink too much before going on a night out you increase the risk of becoming sick or being refused access into clubs or bars. It is better to pace yourself while drinking throughout the night to be able to make the most of the experience 
  • Alcohol affects people differently: Alcohol affects everyone differently so even if you drink the same amount as your friends, it does not mean that you will react in the same way. There are many things which will affect how easily you get drunk such as how fast you drink, your age, your weight or if you are a man or a woman 
  • Drink water & eat food: Before you go on a night out it is important to make sure that you eat. Although you may want to get drunk, not eating will not help you to enjoy your night more but increase your risk of becoming sick or blacking out. Eating after drinking will also help reduce your hangover the next day. When drinking or on a night out drinking water will also help to reduce your hangover the next day and enjoy your night for longer. If you feel sick or too drunk on a night out drinking water will help to sober you up and allow you to stay alert and safer 
  • Advice on how to help a friend who is drunk or high 
  • Tips for staying safe. 

Sheena Horgan, Drinkaware CEO, commented:  

“This has been a tough year for this cohort of Leaving Cert students, and they’ve had to deal with unprecedented levels of anxiety, stress and uncertainty. The Leaving Cert is a huge and important milestone for these students, and they rightly deserve to mark the occasion and celebrate their results. But it’s crucial that their celebrations are positive and safe.  

From Drinkaware’s interactions with thousands of parents every year, we know their concern is typically about how they can discuss alcohol with their young people. Our advice is to talk openly and honestly about their concerns, but also to ask about and to listen to how their young adult manages what is likely to be intense feelings regarding stress, confidence, celebration, or peer pressure.  These are all prevalent at this time of their lives, and because alcohol is often used as a coping strategy, it is important that parents discuss how feelings can be managed in a healthier way. Our website has lots of resources, tips, and signposting to help the public, and organisations like Spun Out have helpful advice specifically for students themselves on their website that parents might find useful also.” 

For more tips and advice for how to start a conversation about alcohol visit our Parents Hub.