Parents and carers across Bristol are being urged to play their part in encouraging teenagers to be aware of the harmful consequences of drinking alcohol at an early age.
As part of the new Bristol Alcohol Strategy, the council’s Public Health team has launched a new online campaign aimed at providing parents and carers with information about teenage health and alcohol consumption, as well as tips on how to approach what can often be difficult conversations.
The move is part of a drive to raise awareness among parents of the health and wellbeing risks associated with alcohol and young people.
It is hoped that early interventions will reduce the high number of referrals into adult alcohol treatment services - in Bristol alone there were 2,630 such referrals during 2015/16.
Research by the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows that family attitudes influence whether a young person chooses to drink alcohol and three quarters of young people consider their parents to be a source of helpful information in making this decision.
The HSCIC’s 2015 What About Youth Survey found young people in Bristol were above the national average, both in terms of the percentage of 15-year-olds who have had an alcoholic drink (67% in Bristol compared to 62.4% across England) and the percentage of 15-year-olds who have been drunk in the last four weeks (16.6% in Bristol compared to 14.6% across England).
Information about the campaign is being being sent out to organisations, communities and professionals across Bristol, including those that work with the most vulnerable families, as well as GP surgeries, health centres and schools.
“Parents and carers have a big influence over their children and young people, helping to shape their attitudes and the way they behave.
“It is important parents and carers talk to young people about alcohol and other drugs, and recognise themselves as important role models.
“We all want to do what is best for our children and one of the most difficult decisions is whether to allow our children to drink alcohol and, if so, when.
“Having these conversations with teenagers can be difficult. We know summer is a time of increased substance use, especially as the festival and party season gets underway, which makes it a perfect time to start that important conversation.”
Councillor Fi Hance, Cabinet Member for City Health and Wellbeing
“An alcohol free childhood is always the healthiest and best option but it’s important to be realistic – images of people enjoying alcohol are pervasive in our society and we need to remember young people have grown up surrounded by that.
“If you present a balanced picture, including both the pros and cons of drinking, you’re far more likely to be listened to.”
Becky Pollard, Director of Public Health
- Start early: If possible, start having conversations with your child about alcohol before they start to drink, but do not worry if they have already started, talking to them is still very important.
- Educate yourself: Before you start, familiarise yourself with the facts and the law, which are all on the 4YP website (www.4ypbristol.co.uk/for-parents/for-parents/alcohol/). There is clear information here about risks and dangers for teenagers who drink alcohol. If there is another person involved in your child’s care (e.g. another parent, your partner) talk to them too and, if possible, agree on a joint approach.
- Be realistic: Remember that young people have spent most of their lives surrounded by images and examples of people enjoying drinking alcohol. You will need to talk in a balanced way about both the pros and cons of drinking. It is important to recognise that alcohol can be an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle for adults who drink within the health guidelines. If you just concentrate on the negatives, they are less likely to accept what you say.
- Listen to your child: This is important. Their opinion is valuable and they will enter into the discussion more readily if they feel they are being listened to.
- Stay calm: Try not to overreact if they tell you about behaviour that you did not already know about. They are less likely to want to have a conversation with you if they think they will be in trouble.
- Share information: you might find it useful to share pages on the 4YP website with them - they may be interested to learn from some of the activities. Be aware of occasions when they might have access to more alcohol than usual: Christmas, New Year, parties and summer festivals are all occasions when some people drink lots of alcohol. Try to have a conversation with them before they attend these celebrations and events, so that they are prepared in advance and better able to manage these situations.
- Have these conversations when they are sober: Do not try and have a conversation with them about alcohol if they are drunk or otherwise intoxicated. The effect of the alcohol on their brain means that they will not be as able to have an informed conversation as they would if they were completely sober.
The campaign can be found at https://www.4ypbristol.co.uk/for-parents/for-parents/alcohol/
Anybody who is worried about their child’s use of alcohol or any other substance can contact the Bristol Youth Links team at Bristol Drugs Project on 0117 987 6008, via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bdp.org.uk.