Alcohol and Drugs: A Parent’s Guide
The HSE is encouraging families to have a cuppa and a chat, and for parents to get the conversation started with their teenagers and young people about the risks linked to alcohol. The Parent’s Guide, which is available to download or order for free is filled with information and practical advice on how to talk to teenagers about alcohol and other drugs.
The Parent’s Guide has been written by experts specifically for parents and includes insights directly from young people. The Guide has advice on topics such as getting the conversation started, how to stay close to your child and help them to resist pressure from their friends and the media, how to set boundaries and much more practical advice and helpful tips.
Dr Gerry McCarney, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, notes how important it is for parents to make opportunities to have these kinds of conversations and to set boundaries for their children: “Trying to chat about ‘big’ things like alcohol or drugs with your teenager can feel very difficult. It is tough to find ways to stay close to your child at a time when it may feel like they’re pushing you away, but feeling loved and connected makes a huge difference to them. Teenagers and young people need their parents to steer them in the right direction, which means having conversations about these topics. This guide will help you to decide what’s OK and what’s not OK in your family, and how to let your child know. Teenagers can put up a good argument, but you still have the right to set the rules and say that you don’t want them to drink until they are at least 18”.
Research shows that adolescents who receive permission from their parents to drink alcohol experience more alcohol-related harm. This is because teenagers who get the thumbs up from parents tend to give themselves greater permission to drink more than their peers.
Effects of alcohol on a teenage brain: Alcohol and young people – the facts
Alcohol is harmful to the brain, especially those that are still developing. Drinking alcohol while the brain is still developing can damage two key parts of the brain: the area responsible for logic, reasoning, self-regulation and judgement, and an area of the brain related to learning and memory. This damage can then impact on a young person’s thinking, functioning and behaviour in the long term. There is also evidence that adolescents who use alcohol are at increased risk of developing mental health difficulties including emotional problems¹. Drinking alcohol can stop young people from developing the coping mechanisms that will help them to have good mental health later in life.
Parents remain the single strongest influence on their child’s alcohol and drug use and having a close relationship can help protect them from the risks. The HSE is encouraging parents to use this guide to help them get the conversation started and tackle any issues that may arise.