Drugs and Alcohol - Talk to your children

It’s just alcohol?

As parents, many of us enjoy the odd tipple. A glass of wine with dinner, a few drinks around the barbeque with friends. From an early age, children are exposed to the seemingly innocent habits of their parents. At some point, children will become more interested in what their parents are doing, they won’t understand unless they’re told, that alcohol is not for children. The next question will be ‘why’? This often leaves parents feeling guilty or quite the opposite, ignoring their child’s questions about alcohol and why it is not suitable for their own consumption.

The issue only raises its head again when your children get older and perhaps, start to experiment with alcohol use during their teenage years. If this is the case, it is even more important to have an open and honest discussion with your child about the dangers associated with alcohol use, particularly with underage drinking. This can’t often lead to lowered inhibitions meaning that your child may be at greater risk of taking decisions that may lead to drug taking or other risky behaviour. It is important to stress the relation between alcohol consumption, responsible use and age.

While it is legal for those aged 18 and older to purchase and consume alcohol, it is still a harmful substance, which can cause long-term irreparable damage if misused. There is a wealth of information on the internet and popular drug and alcohol support charities aimed at informing and helping young people, can be a useful resource for parents wanting to know more about the harmful effects of alcohol and drug use and how to discuss these issues with their children.

What’s all the fuss about?

Responsible adults know their own limitations and children unfortunately have not yet had the life experience to guide them through their decision making process when under the influence of alcohol, the applies to some adults too, highlighting the impact that alcohol can have for life if not consumed responsibly.

Alcohol and some drugs are depressants meaning normal responses will be delayed or different to the norm. Excessive use can lead to hangovers, dehydration, alcohol poisoning, risk taking, overdose and even death.

Harmful effects of alcohol and drug abuse

✔ Loss of inhibitions

✔ Exaggerated moods

✔ Risk taking and/or promiscuous behaviour

✔ Harmful effects on health and well-being such as heart problems, stroke, cancers, blood pressure problems, liver disease and accident related injuries

✔ Poses a risk to own safety and that of others

✔ May lead to the use of other substances

✔ Involvement with crime

✔ Involvement with domestic abuse

✔ Increased family problems and difficulty maintaining relationships

✔ Addiction requiring intervention

✔ Loss of friendships and partners due to drug or alcohol abuse of effects

✔ Death

The above lists is not exhaustive. You can add to it, giving your child examples of how drugs and alcohol can destroy a family if you know of anyone who has fallen victim to the effects of drug and alcohol addiction.

Children and alcohol

Do you know what the current legal standpoint is on children and alcohol? Some of this information may surprise you.

It is illegal to give alcohol to a child under five, unless done under medical supervision for necessary purposes.

If your child is aged 16 or under, they must be accompanied by an adult if entering a pub. Failure to comply is seen as law breaking.

It is against the law for anyone under the age of eighteen, to purchase alcohol or supply alcohol to anyone who is underage.

16 and 17 year olds may drink wine, beer or cider purchased by someone over 18 if consumed with a table meal under the supervision of someone over 18.

Talk to your child

For the most part, children trust their parent’s judgement and will take on board the information given to them concerning the risks associated with any risky behaviour. Keeping the communication channels open and not becoming angry with them if they do discuss or divulge information will ensure that they feel able to approach you for help and advice if they need it. There is more access to drugs and alcohol than ever before, there are more and more drugs coming onto the open market too, it will be a very different situation for children than it was for parents when they were younger.The issue can become problematic when your child moves into the teenage years as they tend to naturally become more distant and secretive. Again this is why it is important to establish early communication and set an open-door policy with your child. Never let them feel too scared to come to you for help if they need it. Many children find the fear of what their parent will say or do more difficult to deal with than the issue they’re facing with drugs or alcohol. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes when considering your reaction and how to handle the situation with sensitivity but still ensuring that the seriousness of the issue is addressed.

Before you talk to your child about the use of alcohol and drugs, do some research on the current types of drugs and alcohol that is popular at present, if age appropriate. Your child may be surprised to know that you are more clued up than they expected, this in itself may be a deterrent, particularly if you believe you can team that up with some useful references to the harmful outcomes experienced by others.

Choosing the right time to have the conversation is also key. You may want to start early on in casual conversation, noting that the use of alcohol is only appropriate in the right setting and at the right age and for what reasons. You can also discuss how drug taking effects the lives of those who use them and how many become regular users or addicts despite their best efforts to keep it to recreational use only. The link between addiction and underlying mental health problems and self-esteem issues can be a major concern. Educate your child, spend some time together online watching videos about addiction and reading stories from those who’ve found themselves in undesirable situations as a result of poor choices made regarding drugs and alcohol.

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