What can a parent do?
The Junior Certificate results are out on Wednesday and the newspapers will highlight again the problem of underage drinking.
Alcohol & teenagers
Irish teenagers are one of the highest binge drinkers in Europe. Binge drinking can directly cause accidents and injury as well as depression, anxiety, suicide and attempted suicide. Alcohol consumption has risen 48% in the past ten years. The average age for teens to start drinking is 14 to 15, three years younger than it was thirty years ago.
Is there an alternative to the disco?
What can you do as a parent in the lead up to the night? I was surprised by a teenagers comment with regard to her plans. She said her friends were not keen to go out that night as you would end up ‘taking care’ of someone you knew who had over indulged. She remarked that it was a pity the school did not take the students away for the night as some schools do, Glendalough or a fun hike and overnight in a Youth Hostel with classmates and teachers.
According to the Gardai at Donnybrook Station, a teen in trouble will often remark that they found it hard to say no to the peer pressure that builds up before the day. Your Junior Cert student may be looking for an excuse to say No ; or for you to provide an attractive alternative, so provide one. Is there something they would like to do, maybe this is the time to suggest it.
Don’t provide the drink!
Police and discos have advised that this is often what happens – without parents knowledge as 90% of homes have alcohol that is not being monitored. Be sure it is not you who provide the first drink. Vodka is often used to lace the mineral in the handbag. Talk to older siblings and ensure they do not offer to buy alcohol for the younger teen. Check out that the event they are going to is age appropriate. Wesley or Howl hold Junior Cert nights which are popular so ensure they have the required prebooked ticket. Much trouble arises from drunk teens with nowhere to go. Some teens may carry false ID cards to gain access to over 18 clubs. Drop your teen as close as possible to the venue at the start time and collect at the time the disco ends
Talk with other parents
Communicate with other parents about your teenagers plans. Each teen tells you ‘everyone else is allowed’ until you talk to the other parents and discover that that is not the case. Too much money is a problem as it can either be taken or used to purchase alcohol. Be aware of what is in the handbag, a small mouthwash bottle may be used to disguise the smell of alcohol.
Delay & Distract
Sporting activities and clubs occupy them and build a solid sense of themselves. Empower your child to make good and informed choices. Finally, set a good example and model responsible behaviour around alcohol.
Tips to keep your son / daughter safe on Junior Cert night
- Talk with your teen about alcohol
- A strong relationship & strong boundaries is the best protection
- Your values and attitudes count with your child
- Talk with other parents and ensure you are happy with arrangements
- Tell your teen the behaviour you wish to see
- Teens find it hard to say No to the peer pressure, help them
- Advise them: No inappropiate behaviour/pictures on Facebook
- Ensure the event is age appropriate, no fake ID
- Check end time of disco and collect a few minutes early
- Monitor alcohol at home
- Drop them close to the venue at the start time
- Collect them when disco is over