Know… about underage drinking

Over half of young people aged between 11 and 16 in Northern Ireland say they’ve had an alcoholic drink at some point in their lives . If you are a parent the subject of alcohol is likely to arise as your child matures.

You may think that you don’t have influence on your child, but parents often underestimate the influence that they have on their children. Research has shown that children develop ideas and attitudes about alcohol from an early age; parents and carers help to shape these attitudes and can therefore play a key role in promoting a responsible attitude to alcohol.

Research indicates that the earlier a child starts drinking, the higher his or her risk of serious alcohol-related problem later in life.

Other risks associated with alcohol you should also be aware of include:

  • During late adolescence the brain is still growing. There are parts that will not be fully developed until early 20s. The part of the brain that is involved in planning and judgment matures later, as well as the part relating to long-term memory and learning. By drinking, young people could prevent these parts of the brain developing properly.
  • Young people are generally smaller and weigh less than adults, so they feel the effects of alcohol more quickly and for longer. Young people may also be less able to judge or control their drinking.
  • Alcohol increases the risk of depression.

Alcohol can reduce your child’s inhibitions and make it more likely that they would do things that are out of character. They could get involved in anti-social/criminal behaviour such as fights, damaging property or causing annoyance within a community.

Tips on talking to you child about alcohol

  • make the first move and bring up the topic of alcohol;
  • take time to listen to what your child has to say;
  • respect your child’s views, if you want the same in return;
  • discuss the risks associated with drinking alcohol;
  • discuss possible consequences of their actions and support them to make the right choices;
  • think about your own drinking and the influence this can have on your child’s behaviour.
  • assume that your child doesn’t want to talk – not talking to your child about alcohol can be interpreted as you approving of them drinking;
  • assume they already know everything;
  • interrupt or be judgemental even if you don’t agree with their opinion;
  • say one thing to your child but behave differently yourself.

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