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Top tips for parents on talking to your children about alcohol

Christmas and New Year bring cause for celebration and many of us enjoy a few extra drinks. For parents, it’s also a good opportunity to talk to your children about alcohol and how it’s used.  

Research has shown that parental attitude towards drinking has a strong influence on the drinking patterns of children. Talking to your children about alcohol is the best way to protect them from the harm it can cause.

Here are our top tips for parents:

  1. Don’t wait – Children are aware of alcohol from an earlier age than you might think. So don’t be tempted to think that your own child is too young to know about alcohol. You should certainly be talking about it by the time your child makes the move to secondary school.
  2. Be honest – Be prepared to talk openly about your own attitude to alcohol, how much you drink and why you drink. Your child is bound to want to talk about this.
  3. Look for openers – The effects of alcohol often pop up in news stories, films and soaps. These all offer opportunities for talking about alcohol in your home. Or why not broach the topic in an everyday situation such as giving your child a lift in the car?
  4. Don’t forget to listen – Try asking your child what they understand about alcohol rather than telling them what you know. Get a conversation going. If there are questions you don’t know the answers to, look them up together with your child.
  5. Keep talking – Your child has to cope with many issues as they grow up. Try to get in the habit of talking with your child about all of them – including alcohol.
  6. Pick your moment – If your child has drunk alcohol, pick your moment to talk to them about it. It’s not a good idea to talk to your child about alcohol when they’re drunk or have a hangover. Wait until they are in a receptive mood.
  7. Set boundaries – Similarly, if your child is drinking alcohol, set some clear limits to the use of alcohol by your child and let them know why you are doing it. Explain what, when and how much you think it is appropriate for them to drink. Involve them in a discussion so they know you’ve taken their views into account. Then stick consistently to the rules you’ve set.

One key thing to remember to say…

Make sure that your child knows that your number one concern is their safety. You should always follow through on the consequences if they break your rules around alcohol use. But let them know that the consequences always take second place to their safety. That way they will be more ready to talk to you if there’s a problem.

One key thing to remember to do…

Look at your own alcohol use and ensure it’s sending out the right messages to your child. Young people learn as much from seeing what their parents do as from listening to what they say. It’s helpful to set an example to your child by creating some boundaries around your own use of alcohol.

Looking after their health

England’s Chief Medical Officer has advised that children aged under 15 should never drink alcohol, even in small quantities. It is healthiest for your children not to drink alcohol until they are 18 years old.

Concerned about your own or your child’s alcohol use? Visit for information about local support services.

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