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Parenting & Education in Ireland

Talking to your children about drink

There is plenty of help and advice available - written by parents and health professionals - about how to talk to children about drinking. A healthy relationship with your teen, and a trusting environment can allow you to more freely talk about the pros and cons of drinking, how to drink responsibly, and the dangers of drinking at a young age.

Here are some classic Dos and Don'ts:

  • Do let them know clearly what is acceptable and what isn't.
  • Don't make a big deal out of talking about drinking. Talk about it while preparing a meal, or watching TV (the soaps often raise it as an issue, so you can too), or bring it up while you're all eating together and feeling relaxed.
  • Do talk about what their friends are doing. Get to know their friends.
  • Don't criticise their friends, criticise their behaviour.
  • Do remember that you have a major influence on your children (though they probably won't admit it), so if they see you drinking to excess, they may just copy you.
  • Don't leave drink around when you're out and teenagers are home. Put it away so they can't find it by accident. Children do experiment; it's part of growing up. So don't leave temptation in their way.
  • Do remember the earlier teenagers start drinking, the more frequently they say they drink.

How to recognise if your child is secretly drinking

  • Abrupt mood swings for no apparent or good reason.
  • Skipping classes, or just not going in to school.
  • Frequent lateness.
  • Money disappearing from your purse/wallet.
  • Disappearing to their room the moment they come in for the day.
  • Significant change in school performance.
  • Restlessness or tiredness.

If you're going out for the night:

  • This advice relates to teenagers.
  • Don't leave drink where it can be easily found (everybody always forgets the wine in the fridge).
  • Make sure your children have plenty to do while you're out whether it's watching a DVD or playing a computer game.
  • Give them a good meal before you go out for the evening.
  • Know where your kids are if they're going on a sleep over. Check with parents that an adult will be around or if a party's planned.

If they are going out for the night:

  • Make sure they've had something to eat before they go out.
  • Offer to get involved in your teenager's plans for the evening, e.g. drop your son or daughter into town and pick them up again at an agreed time.
  • While it is important your teenagers have sufficient cash for taxis home and public transport, consider how much spending money they should have for the evening.
  • Tell them to keep their mobile phone on and call if they have any problems.
  • Enquire who your son or daughter plan to go out with, should it be necessary for you to contact them.
  • Remind them that if they drink that it is easy to lose control, so be sensible.
  • Remind them never to leave a drink unattended in a bar as it might get spiked…with more alcohol for example.

Alcohol in the Home

Most households have drink at home and will often offer a drink to visitors. Drink however needs to be kept in a place where younger children cannot access it by accident. It is unfair to teenagers, especially if parents are away for a night, to leave them in a situation where they have access to drink at home especially during the years when they are likely to experiment.