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Positively Influencing your Child

Alcohol has remained the most commonly reported drug used by adolescents in the Cayman Islands.  According to our most recent Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey (CISDUS) 2012, 60.6% (1,775 students) reported having had a drink at least once in their lifetime. From this percentage, 53.6% (951 students) reported that their parents had spoken with them about the importance of not using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Additionally, only 39.4% (699 students) reported that their parents had spoken with them about their experiences with alcohol and other drugs when they were young.

We encourage you to talk to your children early and to become the greatest positive influence your child may ever have in their lifetime.  As a parent or guardian we can’t always control the powerful messages our child may already be receiving from peers, the media, the World Wide Web, and perhaps even from our own unconscious behavior but we can make a difference by preparing them.  We can begin the process by using some of these basic tips below:-

  1. Communicate

    Talking to our children about topics such as alcohol use is certainly one topic most parents find difficult to discuss, even when parents have a clear “no drug and alcohol use policy.” While alcohol is considered a drug it is legal for those over the age of 18 to use responsibly. As a society we are at a point where socially alcohol is widely available and acceptable, these factors on their own makes alcohol one of the most dangerous drugs.

    While the statistics show that some parents are having conversations with their children, the number of students reporting alcohol use remains high. With 53% of students reporting that their parents had discussed the importance of not using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and  39% reporting that their parents conveyed their own personal experiences with alcohol and other drugs when they were young; it is important to note that a blanket statement or our personal experiences is not enough. We must include crucial information about drugs and alcohol when speaking with our children.

    Remember we can positively influence our children by setting good examples; our children are constantly listening to what we say and watching what we do even when we don’t notice. Do you know what unconscious messages we convey to our child/children? When hosting a party or casual evening, which may include alcohol, have we been responsible hosts and provided non-alcoholic beverages for guests as an alternative choice? How often have we made casual comments about needing a drink to relax or deserving a strong drink after a stressful day at work? Instead we must demonstrate positive ways to handle stress such as listening to music, going for a walk or some other form of relaxation.  Avoid having our children serving  drinks or getting an alcoholic beverage from the fridge.  Alcohol should be treated as a risky substance and not be casually handled by minors.

    We encourage you to start the conversation and let your child know that they can approach you on any subject. Give them the assurance that you will always give them a caring and honest response.  When you establish a relationship with your child they will be more likely to come to you for help first. Let’s open the lines of communication with our children.

  2. Provide the Basics

    Begin by establishing clear boundaries for your family when it comes to alcohol. We often risk placing our children in dangerous situations by concealing information about alcohol, other drugs and the law. Let your message be clear, help them understand the law; drinking and smoking is prohibited to those under the age of 18 in the Cayman Islands.  If there is alcohol in your home it is your responsibility to let your children know your policy on drinking, be firm on the boundaries, the legal drinking age and consumption in moderation.  This is an ideal opportunity to talk about the effects of alcohol on the brain and body of a growing child so they are aware of the risks.

    Confirm that the parties your child attends are chaperoned and that alcohol or other drugs will not be available. Do not be afraid to say “no” to your child if you are in doubt. Get to know your child’s friends and their parents and share your family’s policy so that the message is clear.

  3. Stop and Pay Attention

    Seize the opportunity, even if it means you need to put other responsibilities on hold. Our children are busy people; they’re always on the go, from educational, extracurricular to social activities.  Reach out and show your child that their life and the decisions they make are important to you. When they voice their concerns and ask questions make the time to listen and ensure you engage them fully by limiting outside interruptions. The result is when your child decides to approach you, they know you will give them your undivided attention.

  4. Get Your Child Ready!

    In just a few minutes you can prepare your child by role playing / sharing some real life situations with them. Different strategies work for different children when it comes to refusing alcohol. You know your child best; find what is most comfortable for your child. Some may find it helps to say no without giving an explanation, while others think offering a reason works better.  Some examples that may help include:

    • “It’s illegal and we could get into serious trouble”
    • "I’ve made a promise to stay drug and alcohol free,” 
    • “I have an important game tomorrow,”
    • “My parents would ground me,” 
    •  “A family member died in an alcohol related accident, so I’d rather not” or
    • “I can have fun without it, trust me”

Teach your child that it is entirely possible to enjoy a party just as much or more when they don't drink. Rest assured that if you follow these simple steps when friends or others approach your child they will be prepared to recognize and handle the situation effectively.

As a parent or guardian if you don’t drink, be honest and explain to your child why you have made that choice including how much fun it can be to be alcohol and drug free.  Almost half (45.0% - 798 students) of the students that reported lifetime alcohol use, reported that their parents had set an example by not abusing alcohol or drugs.  Finally, if you drink, drink responsibly. Let your child see you drink only in moderation, not amounts that produce intoxication.  Also give your child the opportunity to see you abstain from drinking and hear you say “no thanks”.

For more information on alcohol and other drugs please contact the NDC by phone at 949-9000, email us at info@ndc.ky or visit our website at www.ndc.ky