Talking to Teens about Alcohol at the End of Exams
Congrats to all of you parents who have young people completing examinations (JC/LC) at this time. It is a significant milestone in your life and especially in your child’s life. Take a moment to acknowledge this achievement. Here you will find tips for parents on talking to your teen about alcohol at the end of exams.
During this time in a young person’s life, there may be heightened emotions of sadness, uncertainty anxiety, stress and joy. Support your child with the many mixed emotions they may feel. These heightened emotions may lead young people to take risks, particularly so at the end of examinations when they want to celebrate this milestone and the freedom of the summer holidays.
While celebrations are meant to be enjoyed, it is important that young people maintain a balanced approach, have fun and act responsibly while cherishing the occasion.
A Good Time to Talk
You may feel overwhelmed about having the conversation with your child about alcohol and are looking for some useful tips for parents. Remember, this is your opportunity as a parent to engage with the young person in a wholesome way and enable them to celebrate achievements and enjoy success without the need for alcohol or binge drinking. It is important you are informed about the risks associated with alcohol and to chat openly to the young person about them. Young people who start drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol-related problems later in life than those who wait until 21 years.1
You are the Most Influential Person in your Child’s Life
As a parent, you matter in a young person’s life. By showing young people you are operating out of a place of love and respect you can have an impact on the future they are creating for themselves. Your attitudes and behaviour during this milestone can impact the young person’s attitudes, actions and behaviour. Alcohol should have no place in celebrations for those under 18 years old.
The brain is still developing up to 24 years old and alcohol impacts memory and the decisions made while under the influence. Delaying young person’s drinking age reduces the risk of harmful drinking later in life.2 Having a good quality parent/child relationship is connected with delayed alcohol initiation and reduced later alcohol use.3 Delaying alcohol consumption is important as research shows that 1 in 3 or 38% of young people aged 15 to 24 in Ireland, have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).4
As a parent it is important you are aware of how your child is planning to celebrate the end of exams. As a parent you have a role to play, even when your child is a young adult. The following suggestions and tips for parents may help.
Make the First Move
Make the first move and begin the conversation about the celebration. Emphasise you are proud of your child and the way they prepared for, studied and got through their exams. You admire their commitment.
Look Out for Signs
Look out for signs of stress or disappointment and know where to get support if needed.
Talk honestly and openly to them about celebrating this event and listen to what they have to say.
Respect their views. Explain that you want them to enjoy celebrating this milestone responsibly, emphasizing their safety is very important as is the safety of those they celebrate with.
Check with them how and where they are going to celebrate and any risks to their wellbeing that might arise. Discuss the risks that arise with alcohol consumption including short-term risks such as accidents, injuries, aggression, risky sexual behaviour and alcohol poisoning. Long- term risks include poor mental health, memory problems, poor physical health and alcohol dependence.
Discuss the Dangers
Being under the influence of alcohol can complicate asking for and giving consent. This can affect a person’s ability to make healthy choices. Talk about the dangers of drink driving and how it is a factor in almost 4 in 10 of all deaths on Irish roads. 5Any amount of alcohol impairs driving and increases risk of a collision.
Young people need to know that if they are planning on going on a J1, a drink or drug driving conviction may stop may from being able to go. If caught driving under the influence of alcohol, it is a criminal offence, and driving while over the legal limit can void their insurance policy.
Talk to young person about the dangers of alcohol games and also shots and pre-drinks. Drinking games contribute to binge drinking and lead to people becoming heavily intoxicated.
Negotiate a time when they will be home and to call you if you need to collect them.
If they are going on holidays abroad, ensure they have it well researched and are prepared with valid travel insurance. Emphasise many insurance companies will not cover any accident that may occur while a person is under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Emphasise laws around alcohol and that the legal drinking age varies in different countries. If in a foreign country, they should stay close to friends and keep phones charged and never go alone with strangers. Explain to them that it is a criminal offence to be drunk on a plane. Aircrafts may refuse to carry passengers if they seem a potential risk to aircraft safety which includes drunkenness.
Emphasise the importance of prioritising self-care. Ensure they know the importance of getting plenty of sleep, eat well and engage in healthy, enjoyable activities.
Reflect together on the people who helped the young person to date and express gratitude and appreciation to them. Discuss their accomplishments to date.
We hope you found these tips for parents useful. Do remember that while exams have ended it is the beginning of a new phase with new opportunities and new challenges. Enjoy.
Check out our new and free ‘Talking Matters’ booklet. A useful guide that provides tips for parents about talking to their child about alcohol.
1. Grant et al (1997) cited in Mongan et al (2007) Health Related Consequences of Problem Alcohol Use. Overview 6. Dublin. Health Research Board.
2. Straight Talk – A Guide For Parents on Teenage Drinking, Health Promotion Unit, H.S.E.
3. S. M. Ryan, et al, Parents Factors Associated with Reduced Adolescent Alcohol Use, (Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 2010) p 779.
4. Health Research Board (2022) HRB Overview Series 12 Alcohol and other drug use among children and young people in Ireland: prevalence, risk and protective factors, consequences, responses, and policies Anne Doyle, Salome Sunday, Brian Galvin, Deirdre Mongan