Family Lives supports Alcohol Awareness Week

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives, Chief Executive said:

“Excessive drinking can have a major impact on both the individual and the wider family.  Many parents may be struggling with their own drinking, which may well lead to their own child’s issues with alcohol abuse.  We speak to thousands of families every year and know that issues around alcohol are a concern.  Evidence shows that parents are the main influence on how children approach alcohol and whether or not they drink to excess.  Many parents do not talk to their children about drinking alcohol early enough and we hope that the Government’s Alcohol Strategy will reflect the growing body of evidence which shows that equipping parents to understand the risks they themselves take when drinking to excess and how they can talk effectively with their children about alcohol is an effective way of preventing children experimenting with alcohol at an early age and can prevent binge drinking in teenage and adult life.   

In polling by Family Lives and Drinkaware in 2011 we found that 54% of 17 year olds had posted something about drinking and getting drunk on social networking sites, and 68% of 17 year olds had seen something someone else had posted about getting drunk. Whilst this figure fell slightly for younger age groups, 31% of 10 year olds had seen posts about drinking or drunkenness on their social networks, and 16% of 10 year olds reported having seen pictures of their friends drunk on social media sites.  

Common responses to seeing pictures of themselves posted on social networking sites were that young people felt embarrassed, silly, worried of what their parents might think and worried of what other people would think of them.  

In a parallel survey of parents, over a third of parents reported that they either intended to talk to their children but had not made time, or did not intend to proactively talk to their children about alcohol, the risks and dangers of drunkenness. As Christmas approaches, Family Lives urges parents to consider having a full and frank discussion with their children about alcohol, their own drinking behaviour and the potential embarrassment and other negative consequences that photos which may at first appear funny can have if they remain on facebook out of your child’s control and available for anyone to see.  

Starting those conversations with children before they are exposed to alcohol and drunkenness in their social networks, which for some is as young as 10 years old, can have a big impact on their decision whether to drink alcohol or not. Anyone wanting more information about how to prevent your children from engaging in risky drinking behaviour contact Family Lives’ Helpline for support on 0808 800 2222 or visit www.familylives.org.uk “

To allay parental concerns, here are some Top Tips from Family Lives for talking about alcohol to teenagers who are drinking heavily. 

  1. Talk openly about what you see as the potential dangers of Binge drinking - from health to safety - in a practical way so they don't tune out. 
  2. Remember your own behaviour will influence them. Be honest about the reasons why you or people in general like drinking as well as the negatives of alcohol. 
  3. Get the timing right. Try to find a relaxed time when you can both chat e.g. when you are giving them a lift, or watching TV rather than when they are half way out of the door or with their mates. 
  4. Talk about how they may feel or what they may do under pressure - whether it is deciding what they do if they are offered a drink, or if a friend offers them a lift home after drinking. 
  5. Research shows that unprotected and early sex is often linked to alcohol. Take time to talk about how alcohol can influence people's judgement and help them to think through how it might feel to regret   something the next day.
  6. Make them aware of drinks being spiked and not putting themselves in vulnerable situations. Get them and their friends to look out for each other. 
  7. Explore how alcohol affects people in different ways, and how it can make some people aggressive and up for a fight. Talk through ways of keeping safe and walking away from trouble. 
  8. Ensure your teens know that no matter how angry you may be with them you are there for them, so they will call you if someone gets hurt or they are worried about something. 
  9. Find out the facts. You may want to talk about different drinks and their alcoholic strength - for example Alco pops can taste just like fizzy drink and without realising it the alcohol can have a huge affect. 
  10. Try not to take it personally or feel downhearted if they don't take your advice, sometimes teens have to make their own mistakes to realise what you have said is true!