Parents need drinking re-think over festive season, urges Swanswell

17 December 2013

Parents should think about their alcohol use over the festive season to reduce the risk of their children turning to drink when they’re older, urges Swanswell.

The warning comes from the national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, during the period (December) when alcohol consumption increases by around 40%, compared to any other time of the year.

Alcohol is often on promotion in supermarkets and other off-licences throughout December, with shoppers stocking up on multi-buy deals for family gatherings and other special occasions, making drink more accessible in the home.

Swanswell often hears from clients that they first started their relationship with alcohol when they were under 18 because it was the norm in their household, and that drink was readily available to them.

In a survey of 115 of the charity’s adult clients, the median age when people started to use alcohol and drugs was 14 (Swanswell, 2010), suggesting that prevention work needs to be in place before then.

Parents play a vital role in setting positive examples to their children and encouraging open, informed conversations about alcohol use.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘It’s a perfect time of the year for parents to set a good example to their children about responsible alcohol use.

People often tell us their problems started before they were 18 – they were drinking alcohol at home because it was readily available, and in many cases, drinking was the norm in their household, so it’s not surprising these habits are picked up.

So if you’re buying alcohol over the festive season, think about where you store it and how you drink it – if your child sees you drinking regularly with meals, to cope with stress or to celebrate, chances are they’ll do the same in the future.

With that in mind, it’ll also be a good time to have an informal, but informed, conversation about alcohol use because they’ll see others drinking while enjoying themselves, and may hear misinformation from friends or relatives.

‘Speaking to your child first will help arm them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions in years to come.

Swanswell believes schools also have an important part to play and is calling for increased investment in education around problem alcohol and drug use.

Debbie added: ‘People need access to clear, age appropriate information to help them make informed decisions about their use, sooner rather than later, especially as they’re at a very influential age and could be introduced to alcohol or drugs.

While there is some level of alcohol and drug awareness in schools, it’s not engaging, so we think that if they partner with organisations like Swanswell, it will offer more effective substance misuse education.’ 

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