Talking to your Children about Alcohol

In Northern Ireland more than half of young people aged between 11 and 16 say they have had an alcoholic drink at some point in their lives. This means that as a parent the subject of your child and alcohol is likely to come up at some stage in conversation.

There are plenty of good reasons why we should talk to our children about drinking alcohol. They may be curious when they see people drinking on TV and it’s important that you warn them about the dangers.

Why It’s Important

It is important that from a young age children know that they can come to you to discuss anything. As they start to notice that you are drinking something different to them which they are not allowed, they will become curious. They may wonder why people drink and why it can have such a big effect on some, it’s important that they hear of the dangers sooner rather than later.

If your children haven’t asked you about alcohol it might be because they haven’t got questions. But they may just assume it’s something you won’t feel comfortable talking about, so approaching them and asking if they have any questions may take the pressure off them.

Don’t forget they learn about alcohol from different places – the media, friends, family. When they have questions, they need to know you will answer them. 

However, this shouldn’t be a one time conversation, they may have more questions to ask as they get older. When children feel they can come to you about anything and you’ll listen with respect and answer to the best of your ability they’ll stay close and come to you more often. 

Although some parents may believe that giving their teens a small amount of alcohol will give them a more responsible attitude, research shows that the earlier a child starts the greater the risk of developing alcohol-related problems in later life.

The worrying potential effect of drinking alcohol at a young age is damage to the brain, since it is still developing. The Chief Medical Officer has reported concerns that heavy drinking at under twenty years old is associated with abnormalities in brain areas dealing with motivation, reasoning and interpersonal interactions.


Questions you may have

Won’t they think I’m a hypocrite?

The best example to set your kids is either not to drink or to drink within the recommended alcohol unit guidelines. But telling them they shouldn’t drink when you do, doesn’t make you a hypocrite. Young people’s bodies, and particularly their brains, are still developing, which makes young people more vulnerable than adults to the risks of even small amounts of alcohol.

Won’t they learn about alcohol in school?

Your child’s school may indeed be covering the subject of alcohol, although it’s not compulsory so they may only be tackling some aspects. Asking your child to tell you what they are learning is a good way of opening the discussion, and find out what they already know. Your child benefits from knowing they can come to you

for more than facts.  

Surely my child is too young to drink?

You will need to tailor what you say depending on their age, be sure to use the buttons at the bottom to get more information regarding this.



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