Ahead of thousands of students countrywide receiving their Leaving Certificate examination results, Drinkaware have appealed to parents to discuss alcohol misuse with those receiving their results and looking to receive college offers.
Drinkaware are a national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse and have called on parents to talk about alcohol habits with their children as they begin to make their journey into adulthood.
With over a third (34%) of under-25s reporting binge drinking on a weekly basis (six or more standard drinks in one sitting) and 64% of under-25s claiming that they use drink as a coping mechanism, it’s important that parents have an open and honest conversation with their young people about alcohol and prevent alcohol misuse in late-teens, early twenties and into later life.
Research from the Drinkaware Index 2019 shows 27% of adults were introduced to alcohol by a parent or close relative. Similarly, almost 1 in 5 adults (18%) were first introduced to alcohol in the home.
Commenting, Sheena Horgan, CEO of Drinkaware, said: “Ahead of the Leaving Cert results celebrations and college offers, it’s important that parents engage with their young people and advocate for sober curiosity or a more mindful attitude to alcohol. We are appealing to parents to discuss post-results plans together with their children and provide them with practical knowledge and advice on how they can celebrate this achievement in a safe environment.
“This is a transitional life stage for thousands of young people across the country and this can bring its own issues. New surroundings, new friends and new expectations – these can all lead to feelings of stress or anxiety. We know from our research that under-25s in Ireland are turning to alcohol a coping mechanism and with many college events all too often associated with drinking, such as Freshers’ Week and Rag Week, young people can feel pressured into increased alcohol use.
“We are increasingly seeing that millennials and Generation Z are becoming ‘sober-curious’ and are thinking now about improving their future health, so the desire to drink less is there but a bit of added encouragement from parents can go a long way.
“Drinkaware’s role in tackling underage drinking is to provide support and resources to those in the strongest position to positively shape the attitudes and future behaviours of young people. Our online ‘Parents Hub’ provides practical tips, tools and advice on how to approach this all-important conversation around alcohol.”
Drinkaware have issued a number of tips and advice for parents ahead of Leaving Cert results and starting college:
- Think about your own drinking habits: Being a positive role model and setting an example when it comes to your child’s relationship and understanding of alcohol is very important. As you know, children learn a lot by watching their parents, so if you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, you are showing your children how to do the same.
- Make it known that not every teenager drinks alcohol: Challenge the perceived norm that everyone drinks before they are 18 years old and use it to open a discussion. While some may decide to drink alcohol before they reach 18 years, there are an increasing number who choose not to. It is up to each individual to make their own decision on this, and parents can help by making sure their children have the resiliency skills needed to trust their own judgement.
- Set rules and boundaries together: Being open and engaging about your shared expectations about alcohol will help your child feel included in the decision-making process. It’s important that they feel that they can talk to you about alcohol, but it’s also important that they know your rules around alcohol and are aware of the consequences for breaking them.
- Be empowered by your parental influence: At our workshops, we hear from parents that they think their children’s friends have the biggest impact on their behaviours. However, we’ve found that parents are the single strongest influencers on their child’s attitudes and future behaviours towards alcohol.
- When they are of age, encourage mindful drinking or sober curiosity: Most school-leaving children are of drinking age, so it’s important that parents encourage them to be a mindful if and when consuming alcohol. Talk to them about the new trend of ‘sober curiosity’, bring them to or support events that provide an alcohol-free environment, and show them that you don’t need to drink alcohol to have a good time.
The views of Drinkaware are echoed in a new campaign focused on the low price of alcohol ahead of Leaving cert result celebrations.
The annual 'Drink is a Drug' outdoor and online campaign, currently running across the country, aims to encourage parents and other influencers to delay the age at which young people partake of alcohol.
The campaign highlights that a woman can reach the weekly guideline alcohol limit for as little as €4.84* in Ireland (or €7.48 for a male), with a standard drink of cider available from as little as 0.44c and vodka from 0.62c in supermarkets and off-licences.
In addition, there is concern that the provision to eliminate the availability of cheap, strong alcohol in the Public Health Alcohol Bill, passed into law last October, is being constantly delayed in the face of industry opposition and may not be implemented.
Campaign spokesperson Declan Bourke says: “With much concern around teenagers’ exposure to hard drugs, we often turn a blind eye to the threat posed by the drug that is alcohol. As well as being a stepping stone to other drugs, alcohol consumption during teenage years has been shown to cause lifelong brain damage, and has been linked to a number of developmental issues.
“Legislation passed last year to tackle Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol was very welcome, not least the banning of cheap alcohol. This was the subject of years of debate and tactical delays. Now, ten months on, nothing has been implemented and concerns are growing that the commitments made by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will not be kept.
“This would be a gross betrayal by Government of our young people.”
The campaign website, www.blindeye.ie, is encouraging people to contact their local public representative and push for implementation of the provision. Drink Is A Drug is funded by the TOMAR Trust, which provides funding in the areas of education, community development, health and sports for children and young people.