A new initiative from the District Health Board is taking a different approach to tackling teen drinking.
“Youth drinking is not a new problem. We live in a culture where alcohol use is normal, and the associated risks often go unnoticed,” says Hilary Genet, health promoter at the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.
While schools have resources to work with teens and get them educated, ‘The plan’ is about educating parents.
The Public Health Service, along with the health action trust, have been working on the new resource for over two years.
“We worked a lot with local parents and recognising that we have an environment that is awash with alcohol,” said Hilary.
“The idea here is to delay the age that their teens are starting to drink.”
Carol Mcintosh, from Alcohol Health Promotion, says the problem is a cultural one.
“Because alcohol is legally available most people don’t think of it as a drug, nor do they understand all the associated risks, since alcohol is not treated like other drugs by our society.”
An increasing body of evidence points to the need to encourage and support young people to delay drinking alcohol until they are older.
Risks associated with early onset drinking include reduced ability to learn and retain new information, injury and mental health issues as teenagers and longer-term problems, including an increased likelihood of addiction, later in life.
Risks are significantly increased if under 18’s drink heavily.
“It is also important to delay the escalation of drinking once it has begun.”
Parents are the most common suppliers of alcohol to under 18-year olds.
“A lot of parents told us that they are pressured by their teens to provide alcohol, and we know from research that parents are influential in creating their child’s drinking patterns.”
One of the main ideas was to create family plans and help support parents. This is where the project ‘The Plan’ came from.
“The idea is really about getting parents to share their experiences and giving them access to tools that can help them have those conversations with their kids.”
Waimea College is one school that is being proactive in engaging and supporting parents navigate their teen’s drinking, which recently held a parent’s evening to share ‘The Plan’ and other resources.
“Recently Waimea asked us to provide this for the parents – parents need to know what we’re delivering to the kids. It’s an important part of the curriculum -if parents know what is being taught, they can help develop those attitudes at home,” Carol says.
Scott Haines, Waimea College Principal, says that it’s key that the school works with parents.
“It takes a village, and we need to be engaged with parents about what we are teaching.”
The Public Health Service will be using ‘The Plan’ to help facilitate a discussion and providing parents with tips and tools of how to manage teen parties and have a plan.
“It’s important to make sure that what kids learn at school about alcohol is mirrored at home.”
Parents can access the resource at www.the-plan.nz