Swanswell urges drinking re-think for parents during the festive season

12 December 2012

Swanswell’s urging parents to think about their alcohol use over Christmas to reduce the risk of their children turning to drink when they’re older.

The warning comes from the national recovery charity in the run up to the festive season, when people are drinking more and stocking up on multi-buy deals ahead of family gatherings and other celebrations, where alcohol will be easily accessible.

Swanswell, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, often hears from clients that they first started drinking when they were under 18 because it was the norm in their household and that alcohol was easily accessible.

In a recent survey of 115 of Swanswell’s adult clients, the median age when people started to use alcohol and drugs was 14 (Swanswell, Looking back: the adult's viewpoint), suggesting that work to prevent people starting to use substances needs to be in place before then.  

The results are also backed up by a recent Drinkaware survey, which found the average age that parents first allowed their child to have a drink was 13.8 years old.

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: ‘The festive season is the perfect time for parents to set a good example to their children about being responsible when it comes to alcohol use.

People regularly tell us that their problems with alcohol started before they turned 18 – they were drinking alcohol kept in the home because it was accessible and in many cases, drinking was the family norm, so it’s not surprising that these habits are picked up.

So if you’re buying alcohol over the festive season, be mindful of where you store it and how you drink it – if your children see you drinking alcohol with meals regularly, to cope with a stressful day or to celebrate, chances are they will do the same later on in life.

It might also be a good time to have informal but informed conversations about alcohol use because they’ll see other people drinking while enjoying themselves, or they will begin to hear myths and misinformation from their friends.  

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

Swanswell believes schools also have a big part to play in making sure young people understand the harms of alcohol – or drugs – misuse and it believes more investment’s needed for better substance misuse education.

It’s something a group of influential MPs touched on in the Home Affairs Committee – Ninth Report called ‘Drugs: breaking the cycle’ earlier this week.

Debbie added: ‘The government are cracking down on the public face of alcohol misuse by investigating minimum unit pricing and potentially banning multi-buy deals but our experience tells us that alone won’t work.

People need access to clear, age appropriate information to make informed decisions about their own use – and they need this sooner rather than later, especially when they’re at an influential age and could be introduced to alcohol or drug use.

Although schools do provide some level of alcohol and drug awareness, it’s not engaging and effective, so we would like to see schools working in partnership with organisations such as Swanswell to offer more concrete substance misuse education.

We’ve found that this sort of working relationship with schools is a real benefit to teachers and students, as substance misuse workers can answer more specific questions or concerns and sign post people to appropriate services when needed.’

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