Alcohol Awareness Week: How to talk to your children about alcohol

As children get older, one of the important ongoing conversations parents need to have with them is about alcohol.

Research by charity Drinkaware shows 62% of 13 to 17-year-olds would turn to their parents or guardians if they wanted more information on alcohol. And it’s important they’re well-informed on the subject, as although it’s legal for children aged over five to be given alcohol at home or on other private premises, the NHS advises children and young people not to drink alcohol before the age of 18, warning of health risks if they drink at a younger age.

The NHS notes: “Beginning to drink before age 14 is associated with increased health risks, including alcohol-related injuries, involvement in violence, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.”

Some parents believe allowing their young teenage children to drink a little at home will make them more responsible drinkers in the long-run, and a recent University College London and Pennsylvania State University study found one in six UK parents have let their children drink alcohol by the age of 14.

But Professor Jennifer Maggs, who led the study, says: “Parents may believe that allowing children to drink will teach them responsible use, or may in fact inoculate them against dangerous drinking. However, there is little research to support these ideas.”

Dr John Larsen from Drinkaware says many studies have shown parents have significant influence over the attitude and relationship their child develops with alcohol. “While each parent or carer may choose to approach talking to their teenagers about alcohol in different ways, it is helpful to have clear rules and that the conversations are open and honest,” he says.

The charity has the following advice for parents when it comes to chatting to your kids about drinking…

1. Get the tone right

Make it a conversation, not a lecture.

2. Get the timing right

Don’t wait until they’re going out  to meet friends.

3. Find a hook

To start the conversation, find a hook like a recent film or TV storyline if you can.

4. Be honest

It’s far better to confess to what you did at their age than to make out you were whiter than white (unless you were, of course).

5. Set rules

Teenagers feel safer if there are guidelines and boundaries.

6. Set a good example

Remember, children don’t do as you say, they do as you do.  If you want to prevent your children drinking underage, the first thing you can do is look at your own drinking and possibly make changes before you talk to them.

7.  Help them say ‘no’

Drinkaware research has found 65% of children who drink alcohol at least some of the time, do it to fit in, to be liked, or to avoid being left out. So make sure your child understands that to say, ‘no’ to alcohol doesn’t mean they’re rejecting a friend or being dull or rude, they’re just looking after themselves.

Get them to talk it through with you, and practice how to turn things down. It will also help them if you sometimes demonstrate this behaviour in social situations by refusing an alcoholic drink when offered.

- Press Association

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