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alcohol health alliance uk

Mum encourages parents to talk to their children about alcohol

Posted 12/02/10

A campaign to encourage parents to discuss the risks of drinking alcohol with their children as early as the age of eight has been backed by a mother who is winning her own battle with alcohol.

Lynne Campbell of Heaton, Newcastle, is supporting the ‘Why let drink decide?’ campaign, which is being promoted across the region by Balance, the North East alcohol office, during the half-term holidays (Feb 15 – 21).

The 38-year-old interior designer and artist admits that she ‘went mad’ after leaving home and moving to London at the age of 16. Beyond the sphere of her parents’ influence and trapped in an abusive relationship, she became reliant on alcohol.

Lynne, who went into rehab on November 15, 2007 and hasn’t had a drink since, is now facing the challenge of tackling the issue of alcohol with her inquisitive eight-year-old son, Spencer.

“I’m going through this at the moment, Spencer is beginning to ask questions about drink and drugs,” she said.

“I’m thinking that the best approach is not to over-react or say it’s wrong and refuse to discuss these issues. So, I’m in the process of gathering information so that Spencer and I can have an informed discussion sometime soon about the risks involved.

“It’s important to get to children early and equip them with the information and confidence to make the right decisions when it comes to alcohol.

“There are so many decisions I made in drink which I regret and perhaps if someone had sat me down and gone through the risks before I entered a life where drink was the social norm, I would have done things differently.”

As part of the ‘why let drink decide?’ campaign youngsters will get the chance to try on a pair of ‘beer goggles’ before attempting to bowl on a Nintendo Wii at the MetroCentre in Gateshead, The Bridges in Sunderland, Manor Walks in Northumberland, Castle Dene in Peterlee and Middleton George in Hartlepool.

The goggles distort the wearer’s vision, creating a feeling similar to being drunk and impairing their ability to carry out tasks. They are being used to demonstrate the impact that drinking alcohol has on a child’s capability to make well thought out decisions.

In addition to encouraging youngsters to try out the beer goggles, Balance will be making information and advice available to parents, grandparents and carers at these venues every day during the half term holidays.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, explained: “Statistics show that many parents do not speak to their children about alcohol until their child gets drunk for the first time. It is vital that parents begin to talk to their children about alcohol before this happens - around the time they begin secondary school.

“This will help ensure that young people have the confidence and knowledge necessary to make an informed decision, long before they find themselves in a situation involving alcohol. It will ensure that they are adequately prepared.

“There will be many moments in a young person’s life when they will be called upon to make an important decision and parents have a duty to make their children aware, sooner rather than later, that consuming too much alcohol can lead to poor judgement and risky situations.

“No one should be letting alcohol make their decisions for them. All too often this can lead to fights, one-night stands and the resulting STD or unwanted pregnancy or an evening in A&E.”

Research shows that 80% of young people who felt their parents would disapprove of them drinking had never drunk alcohol.

Colin added: “I can’t stress enough how much influence parents have in ensuring that their children make the right decisions, for instance, research shows that young people are 12 times less likely to drink alcohol if their parents set clear boundaries.”

The campaign is being supported by TV and radio advertisements and a website for parents where they can get tips and advice on how best to advise and support their child about the dangers associated with alcohol. The website can be visited at www.balancenortheast.co.uk/whyletdrinkdecide

Additional activity with social networking sites and cinema advertisements aim to give young people the confidence and advice to effectively manage their own relationship with alcohol. With the right advice and support Balance hopes to delay the age at which young people first start drinking, and reduce the amount that is drunk once they do start.
The launch of the campaign follows research which shows that 40% of the 13 year olds and 58% of the 15 year olds who have drunk alcohol had experienced negative consequences. These included having an argument or fight, visiting an A&E department, being admitted to hospital overnight or having an injury.
Results from a survey published in December 2009 showed parents often fail to make the link between alcohol and risky behaviour.