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Column: It's still okay to say 'NO!' to your Junior Cert teen on drinking

…But saying ‘No’ alone is not good enough. Tell the whole story.

Patrick Cusack

AS THE PARENT of a newly minted teenager I watch with interest as the Junior Cert results are issued. Results Day has become a day of contention as some kids opt to take their first fling with alcohol.

Is that okay? Most parents will say “sure we all did it” with a wry smile.

But think about that.

As a volunteer visiting the excellent addiction facilities at Cuan Mhuire, it’s clear that the age at which people present with advanced alcoholism is getting younger. The gender gap is also closing. Is there anything an individual can do about that? Yes there is.

The supervised approach?

I used to believe that supervised introduction to alcohol was a smart approach, now I know I was wrong. Some Junior Cert parties will have supervised access to alcohol with “responsible” adults present. Are those adults any better than the drugs dealer offering a user the first fix for free, as an investment in their future profits?

Kids sometimes want boundaries – half of kids do not even want to drink until they are eighteen but they can bow to peer pressure. If adults are tacitly supporting that pressure, the kid has less chance of saying no.

I like a drink myself but as an adult I have the facts in front of me – alcohol is a drug, alcohol is a depressant, alcohol impacts and impairs the brain. Giving a 15 year old access to alcohol is unfair to their developing brain.

Say no but tell the whole story. Saying “No” alone is not good enough in your role as a parent. Take on board the assistance of Youtube if you have to speak their language.

What do your kids want?

Maybe just maybe your kid will be relieved that you took the decision out of their hands.

Maybe just maybe your kid doesn’t want to perpetuate the cycle of Ireland being seen as a country where we have great craic, but only when high on alcohol.

Maybe your kid wants to experience first love, relationships and expanding their horizons without doing it through the crutch of alcohol. How many people found it tougher to accept the Rose of Tralee as a teetotaller as against her telling us she was gay?

As chairman of youth group Soar http://www.soar.ie – teenagers every day tell us that sometimes they want and appreciate boundaries. They want you to be a parent not their best friend. They may want you to take the decision out of their hands.

If we want the Australians to stop calling us “the drunken Irish” we can all do our part to address that. Be that pain in the ass parent or guardian – your adult child may thank you later.

  • Patrick Cusack is chairman of Soar, an organisation that helps empower and inspire young people to build self-confidence, peer respect, self-belief and resilience.

What do you think of supervised drinking for 16-18s? Do you think it’s a good idea?


Poll Results:

No (1745)
Only on special occasions (1535)
Yes (936)




Are you worried about your teen heading out for JC night? Here’s some advice>

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About the author:

Patrick Cusack

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