When it comes to educating children about alcohol, parents have a hugely important role to play. Seventy three percent of children between the ages of eight and seventeen name their parents as the biggest influence on whether or not they drink alcohol.
But this can often be a difficult subject to raise.
That’s why we launched Family Talk UK in 2011, a Facebook community where parents can share their experiences, tips and suggestions. Family Talk features advice from the Mumsnet community and is designed to encourage discussion between parents.
We are now going further. A new partnership with the Alcohol Education Trust is helping more parents talk with their children about the subject of alcohol.
The partnership combines the online reach of Family Talk UK with the Alcohol Education Trust’s expertise and relationships with parents via secondary schools. As a result of the new partnership, the Trust has already been able to appoint a dedicated parent training co-ordinator (who is both a parent and a teacher) in the North East of England where alcohol related harms are high.
This co-ordinator provides expert advice and support for parents through talks in schools, advice leaflets, online communications and newsletters. The work supports the Alcohol Education Trust’s key goal of delaying the age at which children have their first whole supervised drink.
Any parent or teacher interested in finding out more should visit the Family Talk Facebook page and the Alcohol Education Trust website
Partnership with Social Sense
As part of this work, we partnered with Social Sense to carry out a pilot parental engagement programme in Halton, one of the 20 designated Government Local Alcohol Action Areas. According to the Local Alcohol Profiles England (LAPE) findings, Halton is one of the highest binge drinking areas in the country (256 out of 326) and among the worst for alcohol-related mortality among females (319 out of 326).
The project aimed to equip parents with the tools and motivation to change how they might influence drinking levels among their children, importantly knowing how to talk to their children about alcohol consumption.
The pilot was carried out among parents of year 9 students aged 13-14 at nine schools across Halton, and revealed that the majority of parents (61%) believed that most Halton students drank more than they actually did, with a mere 39% accurately guessing the age groups drinking levels. Almost half (47%) of parents surveyed thought that most teenagers had their first full drink at aged 13 or younger, with 18% of parents guessing age 12. In reality, 93% of the 1264 year 9s surveyed had never, or rarely, dabbled in alcohol.
An encouraging 78% of surveyed parents in Halton said that this project would change how they would talk to their kids about alcohol and that they now understand the importance of their role. A parent involved in the study said they were ‘very surprised’ by levels of alcohol consumption in their child’s year group, and that the pilot programme ‘got [them] thinking about the subject’ of alcohol education.
The pilot findings were also supported by a YouGov study carried out by AB InBev in September 2015, which found that nearly one in five parents with children aged between 12 and 16 admitted that they were likely to put off difficult conversations on topics like alcohol with their children. Parents believed conversations around sex and relationships (24%), internet safety (24%) and drug use (23%) were more important than discussing alcohol.