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Summer holiday advice for parents

Help your children make informed decisions about alcohol this summer.

It’s great to see your teenagers dream up plans for the summer, from house parties, days at the beach and local agricultural shows to festivals and holidays.  The summer can be a busy time with many events in the local calendar as well as celebrating exam results.

But if you can recall what the start of the summer holidays was like, you’ll remember the boredom that often came after the initial fun faded.

Drinkaware’s research[1] shows that half of teenagers (51%) get bored during the holidays. Feeling bored can mean that your teens are tempted to drink alcohol; the same research shows that nearly one in 10 young people aged 16 and 17 (8%) drink at least once a week because of boredom.

What happens when young people drink?

As adults, experience has taught us that alcohol makes us do and say things that we wouldn’t when sober, as well as encouraging us to take risks. When young people drink, they are only just beginning to find out about alcohol’s effects. This means that alcohol can put them in some vulnerable situations.

Young people who drink alcohol to excess can end up:

In hospital. Nearly 5,000 teenagers are admitted to hospital every year for an alcohol-related condition.[2]
In trouble with the police. Figures from the police say that 10 to 17-year-olds that drink once a week are more likely to be involved in a criminal offence.[3]
Having unprotected sex. In one survey, a third of 16 to 22-year-olds said they have had unprotected sex when drunk.[4]

In the long-term, drinking regularly to excess means teenagers are more at risk of developing serious health problems, including liver disease and cancers in the future. Drinking can also cause problems with mental developments too, with heavy drinking in adolescence leading to learning difficulties.  

How parents can help

As a parent you’re in the best position to help your teenagers make informed decisions about alcohol.

Being able to talk openly and honestly with your teenagers about drinking is a good way to help them make informed decisions. Of course, it’s probably not the best idea to wait until the night before school breaks up to have “the big alcohol talk”, but the more you discuss the subject, the more they’re likely to come to you with their problems.

Here are a few practical tips that can support you;

Be a positive role model. Adults should drink within the unit guidelines (3-4 units a day for men, 2-3 units for women).
 Introduce the topic early - the average age for young people to have their first alcoholic drink is 13.  
Don’t make alcohol a taboo subject - ensure your child can talk freely with you about alcohol. If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, soap operas or news stories can provide a useful trigger.
If your child does get drunk try not to overreact - talk to them about it the next morning: listen to what they have to say and try to understand their situation.
Further information can be found at www.drinkaware.co.uk or alternatively you can contact the ADP for an information booklet by emailing ork-HB.ADP@nhs.net