The Junior Certificate results are due out shortly and the newspapers will highlight again the problem of underage drinking. Irish teenagers are one of the highest binge drinkers in Europe.

The problem of teenage drinking

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.

 Peer pressure around alcohol

What can you do as a parent in the lead up to the night? If your son or daughter is not interested in drinking; they are likely to spend the night ‘taking care’ of friends who have been drinking.  The hype around the Junior Cert night and the pressure ‘to drink’ is considerable. What a pity more schools don’t take the students away for the night as some do. Some schools organise an overnight away for the students; maybe Glendalough or elsewhere for fun hiking followed by an overnight in the Youth Hostel with classmates and teachers.

Offer an alternative to the Junior Cert night

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. The Junior Cert night is about celebrating your son or daughter and a meal out with family may be an alternative. Is there something they would like to do, maybe this is the time to suggest it.

Practical tips to avoid problems with teenage drinking

90% of people have alcohol in their homes but parents are not monitoring alcohol levels. 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 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 to 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.

Talk to your teenager about alcohol

A teenager with positive self esteem is less likely to misuse alcohol or drugs. 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.

Practical Tips to delay teenager drinking

  • Talk with your teen about alcohol
  • Your values and attitudes count with your child
  • If there’s alcoholism in the family, your teen is more at risk
  • Drinking at 15 makes you 4 times more likely to become an alcoholic
  • Teens find it hard to say No to the peer pressure, help them
  • Give them a way out by offering an alternative
  • Ensure the event is age appropriate, no fake ID
  • Validate arrangement with other parents
  • Monitor alcohol at home
  • Drop them close to the venue at the start time
  • Collect them when disco is over