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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. If they keep their mobile phone on and call if they have any problems, money should not be an issue 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.