advocating to reduce alcohol harm

Parents encouraged to speak to children about risks of alcohol ahead of Leaving Cert celebrations

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, is encouraging parents to talk to their children about the risks associated with alcohol ahead of their Leaving Cert results on Wednesday.

“It’s natural that young people receiving their Leaving Cert results want to go out and celebrate with their friends. This is an important milestone for them and they should enjoy the celebrations,” said Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland.

“Getting the Leaving Cert results can be an emotional and, for some, stressful time, particularly for those who may not have done quite as well as they had hoped. If you add alcohol into the mix this can make an already challenging situation even more difficult for young people and put their health and safety at risk, particularly if they drink to levels they haven’t done before,” said Ms Costello.

Alcohol Action Ireland is urging parents to play their part in ensuring their children stay safe and well by talking to them about their plans ahead of the release of the Leaving Cert results.

“Parents must recognise that their child may end up in situations in which they may feel unwell, uncomfortable, or scared as a result of either their own or other people’s drinking. We are urging parents to talk openly with their children about what their plans are for the evening and make sure they know all the important details, such as what they will be doing, who they will be with   where they are going and how – and at what times – they plan on getting there and coming home,” said Ms Costello.

“It is also important to let your child know they can call home without fear of recrimination if they feel unsafe or unwell at any point. They need to know that, as parents, while you may not be happy with the fact they may have been drinking, or how much they drank, their safety is your priority and that they are to contact you immediately if they are in trouble.

“We understand it can be difficult for parents to get the message through to their children on alcohol consumption, as they are dealing not only with the influences of peers, but a wider harmful drinking environment in Ireland in which drunkenness has been effectively normalised and is often celebrated, and where alcohol is widely available at very cheap prices in the off-trade,” said Ms Costello.

“It is important we support parents in their efforts to ensure their children’s health and wellbeing by changing, through comprehensive legislation, our harmful drinking environment, one that sees children and young people continuously exposed – from drinks promotions to television and social media to sports sponsorship – to positive, risk-free images of alcohol and its use, which are far removed from the reality of the situation. This alcohol marketing is a powerful and sophisticated influence on young people’s drinking behaviour and expectations.”

Alcohol Action Ireland said that, ahead of the celebrations on Wednesday, there is also a real and immediate obligation on alcohol retailers – such as pubs, nightclubs, convenience stores, supermarkets and off-licenses – to ensure that they are not selling alcohol to minors and to not target young people with cheap drinks promotions that encourage binge drinking.

Five tips for parents

  1. Help your son or daughter plan their evening by discussing it with them, and be especially supportive of non-alcohol related activities.
  2. Find out what they will be doing, who they will be with, where they are going and how – and at what times – they plan on getting there and coming home. If concerned, ask them to pop into you when they get home just to reassure you that they are alright.
  3. If you know they are planning to drink, it’s a good time to have a general chat about drinking as it will undoubtedly be a major topic of conversation ahead of the Leaving Cert celebrations. Clarify what their own ’dos’ and ’don’ts’ are around alcohol and clarify what your expectations of their drinking behaviour are.   Assist your son or daughter in thinking through what could go wrong – for example, if they or one of their friends drinks too much – and how they might deal with these scenarios.
  4. Let your son or daughter know they can call you without fear of recrimination if they feel unsafe or unwell at any point. They need to know that, as parents, while you may not be happy with the fact they may have been drinking, or how much they drank, their safety is your priority and that they are to contact you immediately if they are in trouble.
  5. If the night does go well, be interested in it afterwards. Ask them if there were any ’near misses’ for themselves of those in their company or any other tricky situations. Help them to think through how they dealt with the situation and what they might do differently next time. If your son or daughter did stick to any agreed boundaries or expectations, let them know that you appreciate that.

Five tips for teens

  1. Try to plan out your evening in advance as much as you can – especially if you are doing things you haven’t done before or are going to places that you haven’t been before.
  2. Be patient with your parents if they seem to be fussing and worrying about your plans for the evening. They do this because they love you. Keeping them informed of your plans will help them to worry less.
  3. Alcohol doesn’t have to be part of your evening. Remember you haven’t lost the ability to have fun sober and can have a great night without alcohol if you chose to.
  4. Respect your friends’ decisions not to drink or to limit their alcohol intake. Don’t put people under pressure and don’t let other people put you under pressure to drink alcohol or drink too much either.
  5. If you do decide to drink, don’t over-do it and push past a point you are comfortable with. If you push past that point or start drinking stronger alcohol products you’re far more likely to forget what should be a memorable night and/or do something that you will regret, as well as putting your health and safety at risk. Be especially careful with measures of spirits, such as shots. Two or three shots late at night, after you have been drinking alcohol for a couple of hours, can push your blood alcohol up to a dangerously high level in just a matter of minutes.