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Parents' attitudes impact youth drinking: 5 constructive conversation tips

05.09.2023 - According to new Danish research, parents' attitudes directly influence young people's alcohol consumption. The therapist and head of "Barnets Blå Hus" (The Child's Blue House), run by Blå Kors (Blue Cross Denmark), offers five tips on how to have a constructive conversation with your child about alcohol.

Danish youths are consuming more alcohol and starting earlier than their peers in other European countries, and parents may play a part in this trend.

Data from a recent Danish study, led in part by Janne Tolstrup, a professor at the National Institute of Public Health, reveals that children of parents who support their alcohol intake consume more and more frequently than their counterparts.

Therefore, parents are pivotal in reducing Danish youths' alcohol consumption.

Having a proactive and early discussion about alcohol with children is crucial, as stated by the social assistance organisation Blue Cross Denmark. The organisation assists adults with substance and alcohol abuse, their children, and other relatives.

"More than half of Danish youths have experienced drinking more than they wanted to, research indicates. If we have meaningful conversations with our children before they start drinking, we can teach them that it's okay to decline, and that there's no need to consume alcohol to be part of a community if they don't want to," says Helle Evy Theede, head of The Child's Blue House in Svendborg. This facility offers treatments for children and youths aged between six and thirteen from households with substance abuse issues and their families.

But how do parents approach this sensitive topic without it ending in an argument, causing the child to shut down?

To assist parents in navigating this challenge, Helle Evy Theede, also a trained family and psychotherapist, as well as a shock/trauma and body therapist, has formulated five tips for engaging in a dialogue about alcohol with their children:

  1. Allocate Ample Time for the Conversation If your child feels cornered into the conversation, they might shut down. Therefore, set aside enough time so you don't have to rush. Start by discussing unrelated topics, like the communities your child is part of, to gauge whether alcohol plays a role in these circles.

  2. Avoid Being Preachy Constant admonishments may backfire, making your child do the opposite. Ensure you are curious and open-minded, providing a comfortable space for dialogue. Inquire about their experiences with alcohol and genuinely listen to their responses. Share information about intoxicants and their effects, and explain why children are advised against drinking, followed by your stance on the matter.

  3. Take a Walk Together Direct face-to-face conversation can sometimes be daunting. Engaging in an activity, like walking or cycling together, can ease the conversation.

  4. Be a Good Role Model Your actions speak louder than words. Demonstrate responsible alcohol consumption so your child sees a positive model for how to handle alcohol.

  5. Guide Your Child to Positive Communities If your child expresses that alcohol consumption is a part of their current circle, be vigilant and steer them towards communities without alcohol, such as sports or music groups, where they won't feel pressured to drink to fit in.

You can read more about youths and alcohol here.

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