Parents and carers: you play a vital role in keeping children safe from drugs and alcohol. Don’t underestimate your influence, or how long it lasts. Your attitudes and behaviour help shape your child’s views on drink and drugs.
Are you a kinship carer?
Access our resources tailored to the specific needs of kinship care families here: Information and advice for kinship carers.
How should I talk to my child?
Pick the right time: don’t start a conversation when your child is running out the door or going to bed. Make sure you are both feeling calm and relaxed.
Start the discussion early and keep talking so it doesn’t suddenly come up as a big thing.
Give them the facts: remind your child that, despite media stories, drinking is not the norm and most young people don’t drink or take drugs.
Avoid scare tactics: the evidence is that they don’t work.
Make time to talk regularly: try to have family meals regularly. This is a crucial chance for parents and young people to talk about all the important issues they are facing – that may include a discussion about drinking and drugs.
Avoid being confrontational: it’s important that young people don’t feel accused. Listen to young people’s views and offer your own in an honest and respectful manner so that they feel comfortable coming to you in the future.
Some suggestions for introducing the topic in a non-confrontational way are:
- Using adverts, news or soap stories to spark the topic
- Try not to start with questions about behaviour, or what they have been up to when you’re not around
- Ask what they’ve learned about alcohol and drugs at school or college
Emphasise that most young people don’t drink and don’t think it’s okay to – help your child resist pressure to try drugs in order to ‘fit in’.
What to do if you’re worried about your child
Get to know the parents in your children’s friendship group. They might share your concerns, so you could agree on rules around parties and supervision. Share tips on how you talk to your children and what works for the parents in the group.
Set rules and boundaries. You might think that being too strict will cause them to rebel. But research shows that if a parent sets rules about drinking, young people are less likely to get drunk. It’s important that you set the boundaries together and reward children if they stick to them.
Find out how your child’s school is addressing the issue. What is your child’s school doing about alcohol and drug education? Can you help reinforce knowledge, skills and attitudes?
What do young people think?
Young people’s attitudes towards alcohol affect the likelihood of them drinking. Recent research on early adolescent alcohol consumption revealed the following correlations between attitudes and consumption:
- Positive perceptions of alcohol were associated with increased odds of a child drinking. These include perceptions that alcohol makes people feel better about themselves or that it makes it easier to make friends.
- Children are less likely to drink if they have heightened perceptions of the harms of drinking and negative expectations towards alcohol – such as that it leads to difficulties with peers or impacts on school work.
Learn what young people think parents’ roles are in alcohol and drug education in this document from participants in our London Youth Involvement Project: