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Drinkaware - Top tips on talking about alcohol


Parent with a glass of wine

We all want to get the messages right on alcohol for our kids – but what are the right messages? Here's what Drinkaware reckons really works...


Go over the risks

Talk to your kids about the importance of not starting to drink too early, and not drinking to excess.

Don't wait too long to have that chat, because you want to get in there before they start drinking. The average age for a first drink is 13 , and a third of all kids have been drunk by the age of 15.

Make sure they now how dangerous drinking can be for their health. The UK chief medical officers recommend an alcohol-free childhood as the healthiest and best option . As children are smaller, and their bodies are still developing, they have a lower tolerance to alcohol and are much more vulnerable to its effects.

It's not all light years away – even young people who drink too much get liver disease, and the fallout of drinking on a young brain can lead to problems with memory and attention-span at school. In the short term, alcohol makes them vulnerable to getting involved in a fight or in an unwanted sexual encounter. Also, remind them that drinking can cause them to fall over and injure themselves, or, in the worst cases, to fall into unconsciousness – and the last thing anyone wants, after a night out with their mates, is to end up in hospital.

Be balanced

Don't be too strict – but don't be too lenient, either.

If your kids tell you they've already tried alcohol, don't attack them for it. But research shows that setting boundaries means they're less likely, not more likely, to get drunk.

What are the rules? Well, it's easier to put limits around behaviour than alcohol consumption per se. So, if your 15-year-old is off to a party, agree a time when she/he will be home. Explain that you'll expect a sober response if you call on the mobile while she/he is out.

"If your kids tell you they've already tried alcohol, don't attack them for it. But research shows that setting boundaries means they're less likely, not more likely, to get drunk."

If your child ends up with problems that might have been created by too much alcohol, be sympathetic and supportive – but don't bale them out! Mobile phone loss is a common fallout from alcohol-fuelled parties. Don't just buy them another one - this is an opportunity for them to learn that alcohol can lead to difficulties, so over-indulging is best avoided.

Discuss why people drink

Talk about why young people might drink too much alcohol.

Make sure they know that not all youngsters drink – more than half of all 15 year-olds have never tried alcohol, and that figure is going up. So not drinking won't make them 'different'.

If it's peer pressure that's fuelling your kid's drinking, help them to work out strategies to drink less. If they don't want to lose face with their friends, they could say they're doing sports the following morning, or that they have to be up early for a family event.

Research shows that nearly one third of young people (29%) have drunk alcohol out of boredom. Try to help your child to find ways of meeting their friends, and having fun, that don't need to involve alcohol.

Children and teenagers in the parkSpeak to others

Talk to other parents of teens – if just to reassure yourself that you're not the only one facing these issues.

Sometimes, parents don't talk about alcohol-related mishaps – but most parents of teenagers have had to deal with them, and it helps to share wisdom on what works and what doesn't (see Mumsnet threads for more advice!).



Last updated: over 3 years ago