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How to talk to your child about alcohol

How to talk to your child about alcohol

You can start talking to your child about alcohol from an early age – as soon as they start asking questions or making comments about alcohol and drinking.

Children often become aware of alcohol and drinking from a young age. A study in Wales found that 79% of 10 and 11 year old children were aware Carlsberg is an alcoholic drink, a much higher rate of recognition compared to recognition of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (74%) and Mr Kipling cakes (41%) as types of food.

Children learn about alcohol and how to drink from what they see and hear on television, the Internet, music, as well as from advertising and alcohol sponsorship of sports and music.

They also learn about alcohol and drinking from their parents and the adults around them. So, as soon as a child starts noticing and taking an interest in alcohol and drinking, it’s time to talk with them about alcohol. It’s also time to remember that your child learns from what you do – think about what your drinking says to your children.

Tips for talking

  • Use opportunities for conversations about drinking when watching films, sports or ads on TV
  • Talk about drinking at times when it’s likely they will be around drinking. For example, Christmas, birthdays and family celebrations
  • Start when your children are young rather than waiting until the teenage year
  • Have a discussion when making rules and setting limits. You can also think about suggesting a date to review or renegotiate a rule so as to give time to see how it does or doesn’t work out
  • Be clear about the reasons you have for not wanting your child to drink
  • Offer alternatives to drinking and incentives not to drink
  • Ask about their views and opinions and most importantly, listen. Listening and trying to see their point of view makes space for your child to talk

What do I need to know?

The most recent scientific evidence is that alcohol can have serious and damaging effects on the developing adolescent brain. As such, an alcohol-free childhood and adolescence protects health and well-being.

A key message from research with Irish children is that children’s perceptions of parental monitoring are a major factor in preventing substance misuse, far more important than setting definite rules. Young people are very aware of parents keeping watch on what they are doing and where they are going.

Alcohol use is a serious risk to children and young people’s health and well-being.  Physically, they are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than adults as their bodies and brains are still developing.

Minds and emotions are also developing and as part of growing up young people find themselves having to cope with new and challenging situations, including risky and unsafe situations.

Adding alcohol to the mix increases the risk of making poor and unwise decisions, of getting into fights and arguments, of being injured, of getting into trouble with the Guards and of having unprotected sex.

Some Facts

  • Irish teenagers and adults drink to get drunk more often than other Europeans, they drink more when they drink.
  • Irish girls drink as much as boys, sometimes out-drinking them
  • In a recent survey of Irish 15 and 16-year-olds, half (48% boys and 52% girls) said they had drunk alcohol in the past month, with 40% saying they had five or more drinks on a single drinking occasion. Although these are worrying facts it’s very important to remember that half of Irish 15 and 16 year olds didn’t drink alcohol in the past month – they chose not to. “Everybody” isn’t doing it

Follow this link to read Alcohol Action Ireland’s policy position on alcohol, children and young people in Ireland.