Booze and the Leaving: Five tips for parents, five tips for teens

Child may end up in situations in which they feel unwell, uncomfortable, scared

Parents with children who are expecting their Leaving Cert results on Wednesday should talk to their offspring about the risks associated with alcohol before the big day, a leading alcohol charity has said.

It is natural that young people want to go out and celebrate or commiserate with their friends when they get their results, says Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues.

Most parents are well aware that getting your Leaving Cert results can be emotional. Add alcohol to the mix and it “can make an already challenging situation even more difficult for young people and put their health and safety at risk, particularly if they drink to levels they haven’t done before,” said Ms Costello.

Alcohol Action Ireland says should talk to their children about their plans for the times after they get their results.


“Parents must recognise that their child may end up in situations in which they may feel unwell, uncomfortable, or scared as a result of either their own or other people’s drinking. We are urging parents to talk openly with their children about what their plans are for the evening and make sure they know all the important details, such as what they will be doing, who they will be with where they are going and how - and at what times - they plan on getting there and coming home,” she added.

Let your children know that they can all you at any time without worrying about your reaction, particularly is they feel “unsafe or unwell” at any point.

“They need to know that, as parents, while you may not be happy with the fact they may have been drinking, or how much they drank, their safety is your priority and that they are to contact you immediately if they are in trouble” Ms Costello said.

And it is not just the friend’s of young people who are influencing their drinking. Irish society has its influences too, according to the charity.

“We understand it can be difficult for parents to get the message through to their children on alcohol consumption, as they are dealing not only with the influences of peers, but a wider harmful drinking environment in Ireland in which drunkenness has been effectively normalised and is often celebrated, and where alcohol is widely available at very cheap prices.”

Alcohol retailers - such as pubs, nightclubs, convenience stores, supermarkets and off-licenses - should ensure that they are not selling alcohol to minors and not targeting young people with cheap drinks promotions that encourage binge drinking ahead any Leaving Certificate celebrations on Wednesday, Ms Costello said.

Meanwhile, a top Dublin liver specialist is urging Leaving Cert students to be “stay safe” and look after each other if they consume alcohol during their post-Leaving Cert result celebrations.

Prof Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a liver specialist at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, is offering congratulations but urging caution and reminding people that drinking can lead to danger.

“Unfortunately every year as a result of these celebrations, we see many young people admitted to hospitals with a range of injuries, some of which can be catastrophic, as a result of harmful drinking,” he said.

“Injuries acquired as a result of road traffic accidents, trips, fights, falls and head injuries can be very serious,or indeed fatal.

“It is important that young people who consume alcohol drink in a safe way. It is also essential that where someone gets ill or is hurt that they seek medical assistance for them as quickly as possible.

Prof Murray said that he wants “people to celebrate their success and to go on to lead healthy and successful lives in whatever direction they take next,” but he notes that more than one in four of those attending accident and emergency departments have alcohol related injuries. Almost half are people aged under 30 years, he said.

Alcohol is a factor in one in four traumatic brain injuries, Prof Murray added. And alcohol is a factor in 80 per cent of cases of assaulted patients admitted to neurosurgery units.

Alcohol and your teen Five tips for parents

1. Help your son or daughter plan their evening by discussing it with them, and be especially supportive of non-alcohol related activities.

2. Find out what they will be doing, who they will be with, where they are going and how - and at what times - they plan on getting there and coming home. If concerned, ask them to pop into you when they get home just to reassure you that they are alright.

3. If you know they are planning to drink, it’s a good time to have a general chat about drinking as it will undoubtedly be a major topic of conversation ahead of the Leaving Cert celebrations. Clarify what their own ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ are around alcohol and clarify what your expectations of their drinking behaviour are. Assist your son or daughter in thinking through what could go wrong - for example, if they or one of their friends drinks too much - and how they might deal with these scenarios.

4. Let your son or daughter know they can call you without fear of recrimination if they feel unsafe or unwell at any point. They need to know that, as parents, while you may not be happy with the fact they may have been drinking, or how much they drank, their safety is your priority and that they are to contact you immediately if they are in trouble.

5. If the night does go well, be interested in it afterwards. Ask them if there were any “near misses” for themselves of those in their company or any other tricky situations. Help them to think through how they dealt with the situation and what they might do differently next time. If your son or daughter did stick to any agreed boundaries or expectations, let them know that you appreciate that.

Five tips for teens

1. Try to plan out your evening in advance as much as you can - especially if you are doing things you haven’t done before or are going to places that you haven’t been before.

2. Be patient with your parents if they seem to be fussing and worrying about your plans for the evening. They do this because they love you. Keeping them informed of your plans will help them to worry less.

3. Alcohol doesn’t have to be part of your evening. Remember you haven’t lost the ability to have fun sober and can have a great night without alcohol if you chose to.

4. Respect your friends’ decisions not to drink or to limit their alcohol intake. Don’t put people under pressure and don’t let other people put you under pressure to drink alcohol or drink too much either.

5. If you do decide to drink, don’t over-do it and push past a point you are comfortable with. If you push past that point or start drinking stronger alcohol products you’re far more likely to forget what should be a memorable night and/or do something that you will regret, as well as putting your health and safety at risk. Be especially careful with measures of spirits, such as shots. Two or three shots late at night, after you have been drinking alcohol for a couple of hours, can push your blood alcohol up to a dangerously high level in just a matter of minutes.

Source: Alcohol Action Ireland