Do you talk to your kids about alcohol? When should you start? And what should you say? All excellent questions and a good place to start a conversation on helping your kids navigate the subject.
Parents have significant influence on their children when it comes to many things, including drinking alcohol. They play a key role in shaping a child’s beliefs and actions when it comes to alcohol and setting a good example can protect them from making unhealthy choices as they grow.
In its most recent Adolescent Health Survey, the McCreary Center Society notes that while declining from the previous survey, in 2013 some 45 percent of youth had already tried alcohol. The most common age for the first try was 14 years (for 24 percent of kids). Though declining, 65 percent of youth had tried alcohol by age 15. For youth consuming alcohol is not the biggest problem. Rather, it is how they drink: they often binge drink. Among youth who ever drank, rates of past month binge drinking were about 39 percent with similar rates for males and females. Six percent of those who had ever tried alcohol reported binge drinking on six or more days in the past month.
The McCreary Center data highlights the need for educating children on the subject of alcohol; parents are perfectly placed to take on this role. Fortunately, there is ample support available including through a new online resource called AlcoholSense BC, located on the Healthy Families BC
. This resource can help parents talk about alcohol with their children whatever their age. The site offers information and guidance on how to approach the conversation along with facts on the topic. The tools available include a section on myths vs facts about alcohol (does alcohol help you sleep?). There is a quiz (did you know that over 10 percent of males aged 12 to 19 are characterized as heavy drinkers). One of the strengths of the website is its support for and information about low-risk consumption.
The aim of AlcoholSense BC
is to help parents in raising healthy children and supporting them in having conversations with their children about alcohol, whatever their age. The materials provide tools that build knowledge and offer proven strategies for talking to children and teens.
If you have been discussing the subject of alcohol since your children were young, talking to your teen will be much simpler. But even if it’s a new conversation, don’t avoid it. Many teens try drinking alcohol before age 19 and you are the number one influence on your child’s choices. Talking with them about your expectations can reduce the likelihood of harm.
The provincial government’s last liquor policy review found a need to expand public education about the health and safety risks related to alcohol use; AlcoholSense BC is one response to that need. Talk openly with your kids from an early age about alcohol. This will help them to understand what it is, and will guide them towards healthy decisions later in life.
Dr. Paul Martiquet is the Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.