Giving your kids the right attitudes to alcohol

We’ve come a long way since past generations let their kids have sips of alcohol from an adult’s glass or turned a blind eye to young teenagers drinking at parties.

Lots of research now tells us that the earlier someone starts drinking, the more likely they will develop alcohol problems in future, so it’s super important to give our kids the right start in life when it comes to alcohol and attitudes to drinking.

Did you know that kids as young as 6 years old have already formed attitudes to alcohol, just by watching their parents and others drink? They can associate alcohol with fun, partying or relaxing even before they start drinking themselves. Advertising and watching movies, even listening to music, can reinforce their beliefs, so it’s important to talk to them about messages in the media from a young age.

Many parents think that they don’t have much influence over their children’s alcohol use, but that’s not the case. Especially in their early years, parents’ influence is strong, much stronger than peers. And even when they look like they aren’t listening, they are taking it in. If you talk about alcohol early in their lives, there is less of a gap for their peers to fill in later.

So how can you make sure that your kids develop a healthier relationship with alcohol?

Educate and Communicate

Start conversations early: Begin talking to your children about the risks and consequences of alcohol at an early age. Use age-appropriate language and examples to help them understand the importance of making responsible choices.

Be open and approachable: Create a supportive and non-judgmental environment where your children feel comfortable discussing their questions, concerns, and experiences with alcohol. Encourage honest communication and listen actively to their thoughts and feelings.

Provide accurate information: Equip your children with accurate and factual information about alcohol, including its effects on the body, the legal drinking age, and the dangers of underage drinking. Address common misconceptions and myths to help them make informed decisions.

Lead by example

Model responsible drinking: Be a positive role model by demonstrating responsible drinking habits and attitudes toward alcohol. Avoid excessive or binge drinking, and never drink and drive. Your actions speak louder than words, so strive to set a good example for your children to follow.

Monitor your own alcohol consumption: Be mindful of how much alcohol you keep in the house and how frequently you drink in front of your children. Avoid glorifying or romanticising alcohol use, or making it look like a normal part of everyday life as a means to relax or cope with stress. Emphasise the importance of moderation and balance in all aspects of life, including drinking alcohol.

Talk to them about the changes you’re making: If you are changing your relationship with alcohol, talk to them about why and the benefits of not drinking or drinking in moderation. You can make comments like ‘I decided not to have a drink last night because I really wanted to focus on your footy game today’.

Create a Safe Environment

Secure alcohol and set boundaries: Keep alcohol out of reach of your kids and securely stored in a locked cabinet or another safe place. Be clear about the rules and your expectations concerning alcohol and underage drinking.

Monitor social gatherings: Stay involved in your children’s social lives and get to know their friends and their parents. Communicate with other parents about your expectations regarding drinking alcohol at parties and social events, and work together to create a safe and alcohol-free environment for all children involved. Don’t offer other people’s children alcohol.

Plan alcohol-free activities: Encourage your children to join in alcohol-free activities and hobbies that support them to develop healthy social relationships and feel good about themselves. Foster their interests and help them find ways to have fun and connect with others without involving alcohol. Kids that are more fully occupied with supervised, structured and healthy activities are less likely to drink.

Watch what they are watching: Alcohol is everywhere. You can’t even go to a sporting event without being bombarded with alcohol advertising. Alcohol companies spend millions on advertising because it works. Think about what your kids are exposed to on TV, the internet, and any events they may attend with you. It’s hard to avoid alcohol advertising but you can help put the messages into context for them and give them an alternative view.

Don’t give them sips of alcohol, watered down alcohol or zero alcohol drinks. We know that even small sips of alcohol as early teens increase the risk of problems later. The idea that exposing kids to small amounts of alcohol will help them develop a better relationship with alcohol is a fallacy. The French, for example, drink more frequently than any country in the world, and have the highest rate of preventable deaths due to alcohol than any other country in Europe.

Pay attention

Be aware of warning signs: Stay alert for signs of your child drinking, such as changes in behaviour, mood swings, declining school performance, or withdrawing from the family or social events. Take any concerns seriously and seek professional help if needed.

Offer support and guidance: Be there for your children as a supportive and understanding ally, especially during challenging times. Provide guidance, encouragement, and resources to help them navigate peer pressure, stress, and other identified reasons for alcohol use.

Let us know how you go. We are here to help you change your relationship with alcohol and meet your personal goals, whether that is taking a break, cutting back or quitting.

The Hello Sunday Morning Team


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