'Parents should lay down the law and tell teens not to drink until 18' - Dr Gerry McCarney

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Eilish O'Regan

Parents should set rules to stop their teenagers from drinking alcohol until they are at least 18, a psychiatrist has advised.

Dr Gerry McCarney, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, said: "Trying to chat about 'big' things like alcohol or drugs with your teenager can feel very difficult.

"It is tough to find ways to stay close to your child at a time when it may feel like they're pushing you away, but feeling loved and connected makes a huge difference to them."

Teenagers need their parents to steer them in the right direction, which means having conversations about these topics, he said.

Research shows teens who get permission to drink from their parents experience more alcohol-related harm, because they tend to give themselves greater permission to drink more than their peers.

Dr McCarney was speaking at the launch of the HSE's new guidebook, 'Alcohol and Drugs: A Parent's Guide'.

"This guide will help you to decide what's OK and what's not OK in your family, and how to let your child know.

"Teenagers can put up a good argument, but you still have the right to set the rules and say that you don't want them to drink until at least 18."

The guide can be downloaded or ordered at www.ask aboutalcohol.ie/parents/