A Merry Christmas + teenagers ?? Alcohol advice

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12/02/2018

With there being lots of parents in our team a discussion prevoked me into researching the advice regarding teenage drinking and families. I thought it might be useful to share with you to keep Christmas Merry.

Should I give my child alcohol? Should I drink around them? How should I talk to my kids about drinking?

If parenting is a minefield, parenting + alcohol can = a bit of a nightmare. That’s why we’re here – to give you the evidence about what you can do to help your kids to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol.

First up – the law. It’s illegal to give any child under five alcohol. Children under 16 are usually allowed in licensed premises with an adult (though a pub might make its own rules), but they can’t have any alcoholic drinks. It’s illegal to buy alcohol for anyone under 18 to drink in a pub or any other public place. The only exception is that young people aged 16 or 17 can drink beer, wine or cider bought by an accompanying adult to drink with a meal.

But that’s only a tiny part of the picture. Even though you can legally give your child over the age of five alcohol at home – should you?

The Chief Medical Officers (that is, the top medical authorities in England and Wales) recommend that children shouldn’t drink alcohol until the age of 15 at the very earliest. That’s because children younger than 15 are particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, and if they drink at this age are more at risk of developing alcohol-related problems when they’re older. But there are risks for older teenagers too – parts of their brain are still growing (that’s why they sleep so much) and drinking alcohol could affect their learning skills and long-term memory.

Some parents, though, reckon that it’s important to provide small amounts of alcohol before their child hits 18 to help them to learn to drink sensibly. A UK survey in 2009 of over 2,000 parents found most were happy for children to have a weak or watered down drink from the age of 14, and a full-strength drink from the age of 16. That makes sense – but unfortunately there’s no strong evidence that it works.

At this point you may be feeling a bit hopeless. Alcohol marketing and peer pressure are strong forces pushing teenagers to want to experiment with alcohol, and as a parent that can feel overwhelming. But the good news is that evidence shows that parents have a strong influence over their children’s drinking, even for older teenagers.

The three most important things are your rules, your relationship, and your own drinking.

As most parents know, rules come first. There’s strong evidence to show that an authoritative parenting style – setting clear boundaries for behaviour – is linked to a lower risk of harmful drinking among teenagers. But it’s important that you’re open about why those boundaries exist, and the difficulties sticking to them. It might help to get together with the parents of your children’s friends and agree boundaries together.

Another parenting style that’s linked to teens drinking less is parental monitoring. Don’t bust out the Phone Tracker just yet – this simply means knowing where your children are, what sort of thing they get up to and who their friends are. All of this leads on from having an open, honest relationship.

Finally – and this might be the hard one, parents – your own drinking. Teenagers’ attitudes to drinking are based in part on their ideas about how others use alcohol, and are often modelled on their parents’ behaviour. As you’ll know, they are the first to spot the difference between what parents say and do.

Do you get drunk around your kids sometimes? Or if you don’t get drunk, do you drink regularly? Studies show that if parents do either of these things, there’s an increased risk that their children will go on to adopt risky drinking behaviours themselves. What you say about your drinking is also important; saying, “I need a drink,” or referring to drinking as a way to reduce stress might not send the messages you want your kids to pick up. That doesn’t mean that you have to be tee-total – but if you are worried about your drinking, contact your GP for confidential advice.

Parents – you’re important. Wider influences like advertising, peer pressure and the desire to experiment will of course play a role in your children’s drinking, and you can’t be there 24/7. But you can play a crucial role in developing their knowledge, skills and resilience around alcohol.

Good luck!

Top tips

  1. Try to ensure that your children maintain an alcohol-free childhood, at the very least up to the age of 15
  2. Discuss with your children the pleasures and dangers associated with drinking, and be honest about your own drinking – children can spot hypocrisy a mile off
  3. Set consistent rules around drinking. Talking to the parents of your children’s friends and agreeing boundaries together might help
  4. Be aware of your own drinking – is binge drinking or appearing drunk in front of your children, or even drinking to reduce stress, setting an example that you want them to follow?
  5. Lock up your booze! Ok, maybe don’t go that far – but if you keep alcohol in the home, be aware of how accessible it is to your children


Resources

  • If you think you and/or your children may be drinking too much, contact Drinkline (England) on 0300 123 1110 or Dan24/7 (Wales) on 0808 808 2234
  • For more general parenting advice, contact Family Lives, a national charity providing help and support in all as-pects of family life. Visit familylives.org.uk or call Family Lives 24/7 Parentline advice line on 0808 800 2222
  • Al-Anon family groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking, regardless of whether that person is still drinking or not. Visit al-anonuk.org.uk
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Hest Bank Dental Care has completely cured us of our previous loathing of dentists and dental practices…you know you are in safe hands and that the team do everything possible to relax you and ensure the treatments are as comfortable as possible.
Sandi & Polly Haythornthwaite
I've been a patient for a few year's now and I have to say I've never felt so comfortable going to the dentist. The staff are very friendly and professional and go way beyond the call of duty.
Toby Bush
Always a pleasure to visit.
M. Caygill
Everyone is always so kind, gentle and helpful. I have always felt that I’m in safe hands.
David Dale
I love the dentist.
H. Payne
I like the up-to-date technology.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
I won’t see anyone else.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Always very welcoming, friendly and reassuring.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Wonderful as always! Thank you so much, no pain!!
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Absolutely wonderful service, caring & very professional staff x A*A*A*A*A* highly recommended - superb dentist -the best!
Emma T
Thank you for your expertise and kindness.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
My dental nurse (Charlie) was excellent, it would be lovely to have her every time.
S. Todd
Always a happy place, everything is explained in detail. Very pleased with service.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
I'm always put at ease by the compassionate, professional staff.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Lovely, pleasant place to come – both staff and premises spotlessly clean.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Love this practice! Total trust in your abilities and expertise.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Friendly and approachable (Stuart and Gen).
P. Gallagher
Even with having work done, Stuart made Phoebe (age 9) smile.
Patient at Hest Bank Dental Care
Very pleased with my first appointment, Sofia was very thorough and pleasant.
D. Mclaughlin
The whole ambience is very pleasant, lovely waiting room and great views. Kate has done wonders with my teeth. A caring team where everyone works together.
Mrs. Light
Lovely, relaxed appointment. Sofia was lovely and explained everything very well.
S. Hardie
Our whole family attend Hest Bank Dental Centre it is a fabulous, friendly and caring practice. The whole team make you feel very welcome at every visit. Highly recommend
Tracey
Bolton le Sands
Very friendly staff, I wouldn’t change my dentist for the world.
A. Rashid
Excellent dentist, lovely warm and welcoming staff. I love my Dentist Stuart, always chatty and makes you feel relaxed.
Shane