Among South Africa’s numerous public holidays, Youth Day is one of the most significant. It marks the day in 1976 when pupils from Soweto – with loss of life – rebelled against an unreasonable curriculum and an inequitable distribution of expenditure between black and white schools. Thirty-five years later, the relevance of Youth Day and its significance with regard to education is often overlooked, as the public holiday increasingly becomes an occasion to get ‘trashed’.
As youth month draws to a close, the Eastern Cape Liquor Board continues to take its role in educating the public, and in particular the youth, about the hazards of alcohol abuse seriously because alcohol is everywhere: in movies, on TV, in magazines, in shops, at parties and at home. Currently, nearly 1 in 4 high school learners in grades 8 to 11 binge drink every month. This equates to 23% of South Africa’s teenagers (MRCs Youth Risk Behaviour Survey, 2010), and this abuse of alcohol seriously impacts upon our communities. Studies have shown that the most common reasons why teenagers drink alcohol are: to escape boredom; rebellion; they think ‘everybody is doing it’; they believe it brings them relief from painful feelings and anxiety; a lack of confidence and low self-esteem and parental influence. Parental behaviour, in particular, plays a crucial role in shaping attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol.
Parents can inadvertently influence their children’s alcohol use by minimising their own use of alcohol. The emotional climate in the home can also precipitate alcohol abuse. Inadequate parental involvement and lack of supervision puts teenagers at risk.
Be a role model. If you have a drinking problem seek help. If there is a family history of substance abuse, discuss this with your teenager.
Parents can be a positive influence and decrease the risk of their children misusing alcohol by following these basic rules:
- Talk to them
- Educate by example
- Engage in their lives
- Nurture your relationships
- Set clear boundaries
- And avoid the tragic, irreversible consequences of a lack of education.