A Parents Guide for Alcohol & Children
This short guide is aimed at parents, guardians and others who care for children. It can help parents and guardian to understand or appreciate the risks related to alcohol and drug use in teenagers and offers some advice on how to deal with the issues if and when they arise. Get the conversation started with your teenage child and help them have the information as well as the confidence to protect themselves when faced with peer and social pressure.
Firstly, most pre-teens in Ireland don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. That’s a good starting point for preventative measures being put in place before a young teenager is faced with peer pressure. But, for some young adults, taking alcohol of any kind may lead to all sorts of issues in the older lives. Internationally studies and research have recommended that children and young people should not drink or take drugs at all, as their bodies and brains are still developing. With all the warnings in place, and the legal age for purchasing alcohol being eighteen years, the average age for those who do start to experiment with substances is around fifteen years of age.
Why Do Young People Drink
There are many reasons why young people drink, but here are just a few. They might be curious. Their friends might be drinking and they don’t want to feel left out. They’re bored or want to gain instant, confidence. They might turn to drink to escape their personal problems. They see their parents drinking. In a household where alcohol consumption is very prevalent, it can be difficult for parents to prevent children from engaging in underage drinking. However, the longer that young people can delay drinking especially, the less likely it is that future problems – career-wise, societal, health, financial, relationships, etc., – will occur in later life.
Parents who monitor their children’s activities inside and outside the home, as well as their friendships and influences may lower the odds of their child drinking at a young age.
We cannot underestimate the influents that advertising, social media, their friends, and the drinking culture surrounding us has on the minds and behaviours of teenagers and young people. In spite of these many influences, parents remain the single strongest influence on their child’s growth and possible substance use behaviours. Parents who monitor their children’s activities inside and outside the home, as well as their friendships and influences may lower the odds of their child drinking at a young age. On the other hand, excessive discipline might have the unintended effect of pushing teenagers to drink or engage in activities that would be detrimental to their growing into mature and responsible adults. Striking a happy medium can be a challenging task that every parent must deal with, as who knows their child better than their parent?
When is young too young? Younger children are more likely than teenagers to be open to hearing what you have to say and to accept your rules. It’s also easier to talk to your child before they feel the pressure from outside the home to drink or take drugs. It is helpful for children to know the basic facts about alcohol and drugs in a language they understand without scaring them. Firstly, they should avoid alcohol at their young age, and illegal drugs now and always. Their development is still in its early stages and it is not appropriate for young children to drink alcohol at this time. There are plenty of ways to enjoy life without the use of alcohol, and especially without the use of illegal drugs at any stage of their lives. The harsh realities of life that often make people turn to alcohol and drugs shouldn’t have impacted them yet. They are still children and should be allowed to enjoy this innocent carefree time of their lives. However, children by their very nature are inquisitive; they see and hear things around them; they are eager to learn and grow, so if you haven’t had the conversation with your child, you will intuitively know when you should chat to them about the dangers of drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs.
Getting your child’s point of view is an important part of any conversation about alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, teenagers don’t feel heard or understood. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Find out how they view alcohol and drug taking – does it appear glamorous; do they see it as destructive or just harmless fun? Ask about their friends’ views on alcohol and drugs. That way you can find out how best to support them against pressure from their peers to drink or take drugs, or keep a closer watch on them and who they associate with if needs be.