Be alcohol aware this Christmas – and here’s how.

Donna Butler is the Manager of the Strengthening Families Programme run by the Alcohol Forum. As you will see, their work with families makes the Alcohol Forum a vital member of Parent Hub Donegal. Here Donna tells us a little about that work and also gives us a link to the Alcohol Forum’s  Festive Guide

Here at the Alcohol Forum, our vision is an Ireland where every child, family and community is free from the harmful effects of alcohol.  We aim to achieve this by creating and inspiring change through our work with individuals, families and communities.

As a national charity, we believe real change will only happen by working with communities to address the causes of alcohol harm in Ireland.  Our work provides the support, resources and expertise needed to reduce and prevent the harmful effects of alcohol on individuals, families and communities.  Our approach is shaped by evidence and is informed by the expressed needs of the people and communities we work with across Ireland.

Our Families Matter Service is providing a ‘whole family’ response through two programmes, Strengthening Families Programme (SFP), and Moving Parents and Children Together (M-PACT).  Both programmes provide children and families, experiencing significant challenges, with the support and practical skills needed to build stronger family relationships that reduce conflict and increase their capacity to manage challenges as individuals and a family unit.  They have proven to be effective across a wide range of issues including increasing coping and communication strategies, building family resilience, reducing aggressiveness, increasing parenting skills, preventing drug and alcohol misuse and supporting mental health.

We are grateful for the support of all the organisations and individuals involved in our programmes in Donegal as volunteer facilitators or referral agencies for families.  Whilst SFP does not exclusively support families where alcohol is an identified issue, 1 in 11 children in Ireland have said parental alcohol use has impacted them negatively.  In 2015, we partnered with Action on Addiction UK to bring the M-PACT programme to Ireland for the first time.  This programme supports children aged 8-17 who experience the impact of parental substance misuse using a ‘whole family approach’.  We are currently accepting referrals for our next programme.

Tips for planning a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

More people are likely to drink beyond their limits during this season than at other times of the year.  Remember that it is important that our drinking doesn’t cause harm to others, especially children.  We have developed a Festive Guide full of information and suggestions that can help which is available on our website. But if you can only remember 3 things, make it these:

One:  It is a good idea to make sure at least one safe non-drinking person who is known and trusted by you and your children is supervising children at gatherings where alcohol is being consumed.  It can be upsetting for children when those closest to them change their behaviour as they drink.

Two:  Plan some activities for your family that don’t involve alcohol. This helps children see that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Three: Plan how you will get home. Never drink and drive or take a lift from someone you think has been drinking or taking drugs. Arrange a lift or book a taxi.

Your checklist for Christmas entertainment:

  • It is a good idea to have at least one safe, trusted, non-drinking adult supervising children at gatherings where alcohol is being served.
  • Know your standard measures (perhaps buy an alcohol measure), avoid ‘topping up’ and keep track of your drinks.
  • Eat before, and while, you are drinking.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
  • Look out for people – don’t pressure others or be pressured to take a drink.
  • Drink slowly and try drinks with lower alcohol content and soft drinks.
  • Please don’t bring a child into your bed if you have consumed alcohol.
  • Plan some alcohol-free days – your body will be glad of a break.






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