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Does my child have a drinking problem?

Published 14/12/2007

It is one of the nightmares of modern parenthood: is my child at risk of developing a drinking problem?

They could be. UK government statistics show that, in 2006, almost one in four (21 per cent) of pupils in England aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview. Among those that had, weekly consumption was estimated 11.4 units. And among children aged 11 to 13, it had risen from 5.6 units in 2001 to 10.1 units in 2006.

Parents need to move quickly to put a stop to alcohol abuse among their offspring. "Even if their 'children' are now young adults, it is still challenging for parents to confront the issue, but they need to realise that confrontation and treatment may well be necessary in order to save that son or daughter's life," says Sue Allchurch, director of the Linwood Manor Group.

If you suspect that your child may be at risk of alcohol dependence, here are some suggestions that may help.

  • Recognise that younger people will often react differently to alcohol than mature adults. While most adults can have a drink or two without losing the ability to think rationally or having mood swings, children may not be able to handle alcohol so well. If a typically mild-mannered and reserved child suddenly starts to display erratic, aggressive or otherwise uncharacteristic behaviour, it may be time to start asking questions.
  • Find out who your child is mixing with socially. By the time children are in secondary school, they are becoming more independent and spending more time away from the family home. That could expose them to influences that may well not be positive, including alcohol. Try to meet your child's friends and their parents, to get an idea of the kind of impression they may be leaving on your child.
  • Maintain a relationship with your child that is built on open, honest conversation. If your child suddenly doesn't want to talk about school or friends anymore, they may have something to hide. And if your son or daughter starts to tell you about a friend who is experimenting with alcohol, it's time for you to step in and provide sound advice.
  • Be aware of the example you set your child. If alcohol is in the house on a regular basis and your children see you drinking often with friends or family members, they will not see the dangers in drinking regularly or at an early age.

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