Surveys show that more than 30% of 16-17 years olds would prefer their parents to be the source of information about alcohol.
Here’s some tips from Cambridgeshire’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team to help adults talk to young people about the dangers of drinking.
When to start talking about alcohol?
- It’s best to start early. Children aged eight – 12 generally accept what their parents say. However, 13 -17 year-olds increasingly listen to their friends.
- Children will probably be curious and ask questions when they see you drinking. Our advice is to give them a straight answer immediately. Being mysterious or secretive about drinking can make children even more curious and likely to try alcohol.
- Always be a good role model by drinking sensibly. This means staying within the recommended guidelines (3-4 units a day for men, 2-3 for women).
What should I say?
- Your kids may ask why you can drink and they can’t. This is a great opportunity to talk to them about the dangers of young people drinking and why the law is there to protect them.
- Make sure they know alcohol is more dangerous for young, developing bodies and can harm brain development.
Talk about the effects alcohol will have on their looks (weight gain and ageing skin) and how it can affect relationships (falling out with friends or being less attractive).
- There are also higher risks of pregnancy for young people who drink. Pointing this out might be more effective than warning them about the long-term risks of drinking, which can seem a lifetime away when you’re 16 or 17.
- Finding out what they’ve learnt about alcohol already, perhaps at school, can be a good starting point for discussion. However, teachers are rarely able to devote that much time to it. That’s why it’s important for you to talk to your children about alcohol.
What can I do to stop my child giving in to peer pressure?
- Aside from you, your child’s friends are probably the biggest influence on their drinking behaviour. Most teenagers see drinking as normal and use it to fit in.
- Saying ‘no’ can be hard for young people. Talk to you child about the different strategies they can adopt.
For example, saying they’ll have a drink in a little while will usually deter those pushing alcohol.
Being involved in sporting events is seen as a credible excuse, so saying they have a match they want to be fit for the next day might also work.
Tips for staying safe
If you are aware your child is drinking here are some tips you can give to help them stay safe:
- Eating before and during drinking: Eating snacks between drinks, or having a meal before they go out, will help slow the alcohol getting into their system, meaning they don’t get drunk so quickly.
- Drinking plenty of water: Alternating alcoholic drinks with water or soft drinks will slow your teenager’s drinking and help to keep them hydrated.
- Keep an eye on what they're drinking: Tell them not to mix their drinks, as this makes it harder to keep track of what they’ve had. You could also suggest they understand the guidelines for safe drinking and how this relates to their choice of drinks.
- Plan how they are going to get home: If they’re getting a taxi, tell them to get a licensed one. Make sure they let you know where they are going and who with. Tell them to never get into a car with someone who’s been drinking. It may seem obvious when sober but people are more likely to take risks when drunk.
- Look out for their friends: Sticking together and not letting friends wander off on their own will help them stay safe. Remind them to go out with a fully charged mobile phone with plenty of credit, so if they do get into trouble they can call. Let them know that, if they’re ever in trouble, they can call you at any time to pick them up.
Where to go for help?
National websites and helplines
For more tips for adults and young people.
Advice and information about drugs and alcohol for young people and parents
Campaigning for effective alcohol policy and improved services for people whose lives are affected by alcohol.
Providing alcohol education and information to young people, parents and teachers.
Working to support families regarding substance misuse.
Local Support in Cambridgeshire
Visit our Young people service or Adult service section for details of local treatment and support services around alcohol.