Have you spoken to your child about celebrating safely ahead of exam results?

Drinkaware, the national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol misuse in Ireland, is urging parents to speak about celebrating safely with their teenagers ahead of Leaving Cert results.

The call comes as Drinkaware’s Alcohol & COVID-19 Barometer1 found that 82% of 18-24s report drinking for social reasons including celebrating and ‘because it’s fun’ (compared to 49% national average). The new research also revealed that 62% of under 25s report drinking to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety and loneliness, and 1 in 4 are drinking more during COVID-19.

Drinkaware has shared five tips to support parents to speak openly about celebrating safely: 

Plan ahead: Plan their day with them and talk about how they can mark and celebrate this milestone before the results.  Ask how they would like to do this and with whom, discussing safe ways they can keep within the public health guidelines on numbers and locations. Make sure that you are both fully informed of the plans.

Talk about alcohol:

Discuss whether alcohol will be involved and how alcohol, especially excessive drinking, might impact on their and their fellow students’ behaviour. Explain that alcohol is a depressant and using drink to celebrate or commiserate will often have the opposite effect than intended.

Check in with other parents:

Talk to other parents to share your rules around celebrating the results this year. It’s likely that the parents of your child’s friends are having the same anxieties as you about how to safely manage gatherings and providing support at this stressful time. This will help you to assess the potential impact of external influences. 

Come up with alternatives:

Discuss other options to mark the occasion. Celebrating with family for example may not be the same as with friends, but research shows that many households with teens and young people, enjoyed the resurgence of ‘family’ time during COVID-19.

Mind your own mental health:

This is a stressful time for you too. Stay calm and manage your own anxieties first. Being a positive role model and setting an example around alcohol is very important. When you use coping strategies that don’t involve alcohol, it shows your young person how to deal with problems in a healthy way.

Sheena Horgan, Drinkaware CEO, commented: “This is a year like no other and the Leaving Cert Class of 2020 is facing unprecedented stress, anxiety and uncertainty.  Drinkaware is always being asked by parents how and when they should discuss alcohol with their children and young people.  Especially at this time and regarding the results, we advise parents to talk openly about how their young adults cope with the intense feelings of stress, or celebration, or peer pressure – all of which can be prevalent at this milestone in their lives.  And because we know alcohol is often used as a coping strategy, it is important that parents discuss how they can manage these feelings in a healthy way and without alcohol.

College offers and starting college can be a challenging experience.  With the added pressures of delayed results and offers, and lots of media coverage and public discussion, there is justified concern that overwhelmed students may turn to alcohol to cope.  There needs to be a sense of urgency to support our young people to develop healthy coping skills to mind mental health at this time and going forward. Our tips and other Drinkaware resources, and the signposting on our website, provide supports for parents to facilitate this.  We are also encouraging parents to mind their own mental health during this time.

It’s worth pointing out that Generation Z – which includes this cohort of students – is increasingly interested in being ‘sober curious’ and health-conscious, so the desire to be alcohol-free is there and a bit of added encouragement from parents can go a long way.”