Kiwi Parents Need Alcohol Awareness Class

by: Mike Miller

Kiwi parents' boozing and liberal attitudes to alcohol are having deadly effects on their kids.

It has been revealed this week that more than one New Zealander under the age of 25 is dying each week from alcohol-related causes.

The revelation came from the Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, which studied 357 deaths of young Kiwis from 2005 to 2007. Alcohol contributed to or was the cause of 87 of the fatalities – about one quarter of the tragedies.

The committee described alcohol as "like a toxic tide impinging on all children and young people born and growing up in New Zealand".

Committee chairman Nick Baker said: "Too many young people are victims of their own drinking or victims of the drinking of others.

"We see deaths and injuries sustained by teenagers who drive while drunk, get into cars driven by other people who are drunk, or suffer fatal assault while under the influence themselves or where the assailant has been drinking."

National Addiction Centre director Professor Doug Sellman said a recent Australasian study found children were influenced by how parents behaved around alcohol – rather than what mum and dad told them about booze.

The study also found attempting to normalize alcohol use by allowing children to drink at home or giving them small amounts to take to parties increased the risk of harm.

"Every day, children in New Zealand are marched past the... cheap wine and beer in supermarkets, just across the aisle from the fruit and vegetables as they go shopping with their parents, unconsciously forming the idea that alcohol is not a Class B-equivalent drug causing untold damage to NZ society but rather that it is a harmless grocery item that is essential for a normal successful life.

"We were told in the late 80s that New Zealand would become a sophisticated European-like country like France if we liberalized our liquor laws. We weren't told at the time that France had the highest rate of alcohol dependence and alcoholic liver cirrhosis in the world."

British research on the problem of teen drinking even studied parenting styles.

The study, by UK institute Demos, found bad parenting of 16-year-olds made the teens more than eight times more likely to drink excessively that year and twice as likely to do it up to their mid-30s.

The research analyzed data from more than 15,000 children born in Britain in the past 40 years. It considered four styles of parenting – authoritarian, tough love, permissive (laissez-faire) and disengaged.

It found tough love – where there are expectations, set boundaries and "warm" support was the best way to ensure children didn't become binge drinkers.

The study recommended parents not take a relaxed attitude to under-age drinking, avoid being drunk around their children, monitor access to alcohol in the home and discuss alcohol with them within the context of setting firm boundaries.

In New Zealand, the Alcohol Reform Bill is due to be passed into law next year. It will make 130 changes, including prohibiting convenience stores from selling alcohol and restricting supermarkets and grocery stores to displaying alcohol and advertising in one, non-prominent, area.