Alcohol is a widely accepted way to relax and socialise in the UK and so children often have questions about alcohol from a young age. Talking to your kids about alcohol is the best way to make them aware of the dangers, but where do you start?

Young children will often start by asking ‘what is that?’ or ‘why do you drink that?’ especially if they see lots of adults drinking alcohol at a family occasion or party. You can talk to your children about the physical and social effects of drinking as soon as they start asking questions, this will help to build up their trust in you if things ever go wrong as they get older.

Discussing alcohol from an early age

What you can do:

  • Explain that alcohol is for adults only - talk about the good (the social side of alcohol) but also the bad (getting drunk)
  • Encourage questions - explain to your children that they can talk to you about alcohol and if they have any questions you’ll answer them. If they ask a question it’s ok to say ‘I’ll find out’ and search online together for the answer
  • Find out what they know - check that what your child has heard is accurate. If they ask you about alcohol, use this opportunity to find out what they know

Teenagers and alcohol

Most children have started experimenting with alcohol by their mid-teens and peer pressure can play a big part in whether teenagers decide to try it or drink regularly. You may be understandably concerned about your child’s safety if you suspect or know that they drink outside the house. We’ve got some advice from our counsellors about how to talk to your teen about alcohol.

What you can do:

  • Teen Driving Teen Driving Maryland Maryland Laws Explain why you can’t buy alcohol until you’re 18 - the law is there to protect children because alcohol can be harmful, make sure your teen knows this
  • Set rules about alcohol - research shows that teens that have rules around alcohol are less likely to get drunk, so talk to your child and agree what your rules are when it comes to drinking alcohol inside and outside the house 
  • Teach your teen how to say no - knowing how to deal with peer pressure is a big part of growing up, but you can practice saying no confidently with your teen
  • Tell your teen they can ring you if they need you - explain to your teenager that if something happens that they’re scared of or they don’t like, they can contact you and you’ll pick them up no questions asked.
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Drinking problem

If you suspect that your son or daughter is drinking too much or too often, you need to take action to encourage them to change their behaviour. If your child breaks your rules about alcohol it can be especially upsetting, but try to keep calm and take control.

What you can do:

  • Don’t talk to your teen if they’re still drunk - this may end in arguing as your son or daughter is unlikely to be able to think clearly while under the influence
  • Explain why you are upset or concerned - tell your teen that you really love and care about them and that you’re scared for their safety when they drink
  • Get professional support - if you think that your teenager has an alcohol addiction then you can get professional help from a trained counsellor. You can use the live chat tool on this website to help you know where to start. It’s confidential and free, and you can use it whenever you like.

Watch teens, parents and counsellors discuss how to handle alcohol in the home in this video from Parentchannel.tv.

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