Fifty Key Messages – Safety first, let’s talk about drugs and alcohol

It is important to discuss smoking, alcohol and drug use with your teenager. This does not encourage them to use cigarettes, alcohol and/or drugs. Talk with your adolescent about the consequences of using cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Not talking to them about these issues will not protect them. Have clear rules and guidelines about smoking, alcohol and drugs consumption. As a parent it is important that you are able to recognise the signs associated with alcohol and drug use – HSE Website.

Advice for parents

Q. My son has just gone 16 and has been telling me that his friends have started drinking and he’s been joking that he should be allowed to drink too. He’s also been asking to go to house parties where I’m sure there will be drinking going on. Some of my friends have advised me that I should let him have a drink at home rather than having him do it behind my back. I’m not sure about doing this, and would greatly value your opinion.

A. You are right to be concerned about this issue. Teen binge drinking and all the associated problems have been on the increase in recent years in Ireland. Many surveys have found that teenagers are drinking earlier and more heavily than their counterparts a decade or two ago.

While, of course, media influences and peer pressure are variables in teenage drinking, parents have a crucial role in influencing teenagers positively to delay drinking until they are older and in reducing problematic drinking when they start. Good supervision, role-modelling and effective parent-child communication are all key factors in helping your teen avoid problems with alcohol.

In tackling teenage drinking, parents are often faced with dilemmas such as the ones you describe. Should I allow my teen go to parties where there is drinking? Should I allow my teen to drink at home where I can supervise him?

In considering these questions, it is worth looking at some of the research in relation to problematic drinking. The biggest predictor of later problems with alcohol for young adults is the age they start drinking. The earlier your teen starts to drink, the more likely they are to go on to have problems (and to go on to use other drugs).

Delay as long as possible

As a parent, a very important goal is to try to get your teen to delay starting to drink until as late as possible. Though some teenagers may start to drink earlier, personally I think the legal age of 18 years is the standard to aim for. It is important to sit down with your teenagers and to state your values in this regard. A lot of parents are afraid to raise the subject, but sitting down and telling your teen that you’d prefer that they did not drink until they are older, and explaining your positive reasons for this, sends out a very important signal.

For this reason, I am not sure that supervised drinking at home is a good idea for teenagers as it sends out a mixed message. Of course, teenagers may go behind your back and choose to experiment with drinking, but they are less likely to do this if they know your clear preference in this regard.

Good supervision is also very important. When young teenagers are going to parties you need to check where they will be going, agree when they will be back, make sure they have their phone on, and so on. It is okay to have a rule that they should not be going to parties where drink is freely available unless they can convince you that they can be trusted and will not join in.

Discuss issues

It is also useful to have conversations with your teenager about the dangers of alcohol and drugs and to be proactive in this regard. Some studies have shown that children whose parents openly discuss issues such as drugs/alcohol are less likely to experiment with drugs or have problematic drinking when they are older – it is important that they are getting information from you and not just from the media and their peer group.

These conversations don’t have be formal sit-down affairs. When your teen jokes about being allowed to drink, this can be a time to start a conversation, or you might open a discussion when the topic comes up on the news or even during a soap opera or in a movie. The best approach is to listen to teenagers’ opinion first, before sharing your own values. For example, if a storyline in a soap opera focuses on teen drinking, you can ask your son different questions such as, “What do you think of what is happening?” or “How safe is that teenager?” or “What would you do in the same situation?”

An equally important conversation to have with your son is around dealing with peer pressure. In research on school programmes to prevent early smoking, drinking or drug taking, the most successful approaches were not ones that simply focused on highlighting the dangers of these behaviours but also ones that taught young people how to assert themselves, to resist peer pressure and to say no to their peers in a positive way. For example, it is useful to discuss with your son what would he do if someone offered him drugs. Or what would he say if he felt pressured to do something that he didn’t want to. In the future, you can use these conversations to explore safe drinking with him, for example, asking him how he could ensure he was safe if he went to a party or how would he know a safe level of drinking or which friends could he trust most when he was out? Talking through the issues with your son and helping him think up options and strategies is a good way to help him be safe in the long term.

So, to summarise, the best approach to helping your teenager with alcohol is to delay their starting to drink as late as possible, and when they start, to help them to do this in a safe and social way. Being realistic, the message to give your teenagers is, “Be good, and if you can’t be good be careful.”

In addition, it is important to always supervise your teenagers in line with their age and check in on them to ensure there is regular contact between you. Above all, make sure the lines of communication are always open, and give them the message that no matter what happens they can turn to you for support and guidance.

John Sharry, Irish Times, June 2010.

Source: Solution Talk

To explore more Key Messages from  Parenting24Seven see

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Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.
        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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