With thousands of young people due to receive their exam results, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging parents to talk to their children about the risks associated with drinking and taking drugs.
Many teenagers will go out with friends when they get exam results, whether they are celebrating or commiserating. Both scenarios can lead to excessive drinking or drug taking, so there’s an important role for parents to talk to their children about the risks.
Davis Turkington, Senior Health and Wellbeing Improvement Officer with the PHA, said that parents’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol and drugs have a strong influence on their children:
“Parents can make the first move and talk frankly about the dangers of binge drinking and encourage their children to have fun with friends without alcohol.
“If your child is of the legal drinking age, encourage them to take care if they choose to drink. Staying within the safe drinking limits is important, as excessive drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach.”
Some helpful tips:
Make the first move and bring up the topic of alcohol. Don’t wait until there’s a problem before you decide to talk.
Take time to listen to what your child has to say.
Respect their views if you want the same in return.
Discuss the risks associated with drinking alcohol.
Discuss possible consequences of their actions and support them to make the right choices.
Think about your own drinking and the influence this can have on your child’s behaviour.
Assume your child doesn’t want to talk. Not talking to your child about alcohol could be interpreted as your approval of them drinking.
Assume they already know everything.
Interrupt or be judgemental, even if you don’t agree with their opinion.
There are more handy tips on talking to your child about drinking in the booklet ‘You, your child and alcohol’, which is available from GP surgeries, pharmacies and in the Publications section of the PHA website: www.publichealthagency.org
Davis said: “Misusing drugs which have not been prescribed for you can cause serious damage to your health or even death. You can never be sure what has gone into the drugs, therefore the PHA strongly recommends that you do not take them. Parents can play an important role in helping young people to understand these risks, so they don’t choose to take drugs without realising the harm they could be exposing themselves to.
“If someone has taken drugs and is feeling unwell, please seek medical help urgently.”
For further information on alcohol limits and where to get help for both alcohol and drug problems see www.knowyourlimits.info
Results time can also have an impact on young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Davis added: “Teenagers not getting the grades they hoped for can result in them feeling anxious or low. Disappointment is an understandable reaction, however it is also important not to neglect the possible impact of this stress on mental and emotional wellbeing.
“Parents are urged to look out for behaviour or feelings that could indicate that their child is showing signs of stress. More information on looking after mental health and the support available in Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info”