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Guide to setting rules around alcohol

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Have faith in yourself

You are doing the right thing - Keeping kids away from high-risk situations can:

  • Keep them safer
  • Stop them feeling under too much pressure from friends
  • Avoid them getting into situations they can’t handle or later regret
  • Protect their health and mental health in the future

Be brave

Setting rules and sticking to them is the difficult choice. It’s easier to let things go and avoid an argument. You may also feel that rules and punishments may harm your relationship with your child. But once your child knows you mean business, there should be less resistance.

Be clear what is right for your family

You need to be clear what is acceptable for your family.

Every family has its own values and beliefs. What is right for one family may not be right for another.

Deciding what is right for you and your child can help you to work out the rules that will work for you.

Look at some of the example rules, and see which are important to you.

Talk to the parents of your child’s friends

It can help to explain what you are trying to do and see if you can boundaries together. This can help to avoid the argument - “Everyone else is allowed…” and keep social events safer.

Try to set rules early on

It can avoid a lot of conflict if your child knows what is allowed and what’s not allowed before the situations arise.

For example, you could tell a child of 11 or 12:

  • They can go only to the local disco once they get to secondary school
  • When they are older they won’t be allowed to go to parties unless you talk with the parent first
  • They will not be allowed to stay out past midnight until they are 16

Talk about your expectations

Let your child know that you want them to be free to socialise and become independent, but that freedom means they need to be grown up enough to stick by the rules. They need to stay in contact and let you know where they are.

Explain why you need the rules

Talking about why you need some rules about alcohol can help your child see that you care about his/ her well-being and will help them understand the issues from your perspective. Sharing some of the risks may help.

See our section What you should know: The full facts about alcohol for some key points. When you have this discussion, listen to your child’s opinions without interrupting.

Try to involve your child in setting the rules

Kids are more likely to stick to rules if they’re involved and agree to them. Listen to their objections.

Be prepared to negotiate and give them some of what they want, if possible.

Let their friends know what your rules are

It can reduce pressure on your child if their friends know your rules about alcohol. For example:

  • Your child has a fixed time to be home
  • You will call your friends’ parents if you know they are drinking
  • Friends will not be allowed to bring alcohol into your house

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Agree what will happen if the rules are broken

Try to make the consequences fair. For example:

  • If they come home late, they will have to come home earlier the next time until they get your trust.
  • If they don’t answer their phone when they are out, they have to stay at home for a time.
  • If they buy drink, they don’t get money for a time.

Make sure consequences happen if the rules are broken

Rules without consequences don’t work. Don’t give in or make an exception.

If you let things go once, it is much harder to try and make them work in the future.

Acknowledge good behaviour

Make sure to thank them if they stuck to the rules and praise them if they help to keep their friends safe.

Prepare yourself for teen pressure

"But muuuuuuuum!" Have your answers ready for any objections! See some example answers

Some example rules

    • They check it’s OK with you before they accept an invitation to go out
    • They come home at a certain time
    • They must always tell you where they are/have been, and who they were with
    • They must always call you if they are going to be late
    • They keep their mobile charged and switched on and answer it
    • They don’t drink alcohol
    • No over 18 venues – e.g. pubs and nightclubs - until they are 18
    • They will not take a lift with someone who has been drinking
    • Older brothers and sisters will not let younger kids drink
    • No parties at home without an adult there
    • They have to tell you who they want to invite if they’re having a party, and you have to agree
    • You will call your friend’s parents if you find them with alcohol
    • No parties or sleepovers unless you have spoken to the parent
    • You will collect them unless you have spoken to the person bringing them home
    • No sleepovers after house parties
    • No parties where there is no adult supervision

References:

(2013) NYCI. Support manual for dealing with substance use issues in an out of school setting. National Youth Council of Ireland, Dublin
http://www.publichealthagency.org/sites/default/files/you%20your%20child%20and%20alcohol%20leaflet.pdf
https://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HPM00402.pdf
http://alcoholthinkagain.com.au/Parents-Young-People/Alcohol-and-Young-People
Brian Wall. Sharing Experiences And Suggestions Around Alcohol & Substance Abuse A Collaborative Guide For Parents, 2nd Edition, 2011. 

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