THE BLOG

Why We All Need to Talk to Our Children About Responsible Drinking

23/09/2013 10:30 BST | Updated 19/11/2013 10:12 GMT

Children, and particularly teenagers, don't often admit that they listen to their parents. So when they tell us that it is not their friends but their parents who have the most influence on their attitudes to alcohol, we should listen. And I say this not just as the UK head of the world's largest brewer, but as a mother of two teenage boys.

Through our annual surveys about children, parents and alcohol, we have learnt a lot about how influential parents are. In fact, 73 per cent of children between the age of eight and seventeen name their parents as the biggest influence on whether or not they drink alcohol.

That places a big responsibility on us as parents to talk to our children about responsible drinking. And as we know, it is not always easy to draw the line between talking and lecturing.

As well as how important an influence parents are, this year's survey also revealed a gender divide. Men feel more uncomfortable talking to their children about alcohol, yet children are more likely to turn to them for advice about drinking. While almost two thirds of mothers initiated conversations with their children about alcohol, this figure was closer to half for fathers. And while one in five mothers admitted they haven't spoken to their children about alcohol, this number rose from 22 to 32 per cent when fathers were asked the same question.

As well as a gender divide, the survey also revealed regional differences. Parents in the North East and North West were less likely than the national average to have spoken to their children about alcohol. Mothers in the South West and fathers in the East Anglia were, in contrast, most likely to have these tricky conversations.

Does any of this matter? I believe it does.

I believe the better information and more support parents have, the easier they will find it to talk to their children. And the more conversations we have, the more likely our children will be to drink responsibly when they grow up. That's clearly in everyone's interests.

So as part of our Better World programme, we have been working hard with a wide range of partners to help improve this information and make it easier for parents to have this conversation.

The best advice, of course, comes from other parents who have found themselves in the same position. This is why in 2011 we set up Family Talk UK, an online platform where parents can share their experiences about talking to their children about alcohol. Family Talk features advice from the Mumsnet community and is designed to encourage discussion between parents.

We are now going further through a new partnership with the Alcohol Education Trust to help more parents talk with their children about this subject. The partnership will combine the online reach of Family Talk UK with the Alcohol Education Trust's expertise and relationships with parents via secondary schools. As a result of the new partnership, the Trust has already been able to appoint a new training coordinator to work with parents in the North East.

Most parents do understand the importance of talking to their children about alcohol. But there's more to do to help all parents have this conversation.

Inge Plochaet, President of AB InBev UK & Ireland, explains why it's important for parents to talk openly with their children about responsible drinking and how industry partnerships can help.

Visit Family Talk UK at: www.facebook.com/FamilyTalkUK