A new initiative aimed at educating both parents and children on the dangers of alcohol misuse was launched this week.
Divert and the Drink Think Project launched the ‘Children Live What They Learn’ project at the Play Trail on the Racecourse Road on Wednesday afternoon. Divert project co-ordinator, Leona McMenamin explained what the project hopes to achieve.
“Through our research work and talking to people on the ground we discovered that children as young as five and six were mimicking their parents going to the off-licence to purchase alcohol - we thought this was pretty worrying.
“The ‘Children Live What They Learn’ initiative is not telling adults not to drink it’s just educating them on the importance of drinking responsibly and sensibly.”
She added: “Divert engage with young people and families to encourage a sensible approach to alcohol and support them to make the right choices.
“This campaign highlights the work that we do on an ongoing basis. We hope this campaign will make parents think about how they expose their children to alcohol, as children watch and copy what their parents do from a very young age.”
During Wednesday’s launch Leona and Drink Think manager Joanne Smith spoke with parents and handed out leaflets informing them on the importance of drinking responsibly.
Joanne said that the new initiative is city wide and added that she hopes that the inclusion of leaflets inside Friday’s ‘Derry Journal’ will go a long way to getting the message across.
“It’s such an important issue where drinking is concerned,” said Joanne.
“Children take in so much and in the leaflets we printed off we have the message ‘each time you drink alcohol in front of your child, they are learning from you’ written on it.
“Often we don’t realise the power of our actions over our children. It’s important for parents to be aware of the example they are setting to their child and understand their child is learning from them each day.”
She added: “We are not trying to scare parents into thinking that they can never ever have another drink again but we are saying is that they should think twice about how much they drink and how often they drink in front of their child.”
Joanne said that whilst the Drink Think Project and Divert have been making significant inroads where alcohol misuse is concerned there is still plenty of work to be done.
“I’ve been out working on the ground and people have come up to me to say that by reading something either the Drink Think Project or Divert have done, they have changed their drinking habits - that has to be regarded as a good thing.”
Leona said that as a result of the consistent message coming from both Divert and the Drink Think Project a woman she knows recently had a birthday party for one of her children but insisted on it being alcohol free for adults.
“It’s through the subtle approach that we convince people to think about how they drink in front of their children.
“I know a woman who has three children. During her first two pregnancies she would have enjoyed the odd drink but as a result of me badgering on at her she didn’t touch a drink when she was pregnant with her third child.
“She had a birthday party for one of the three kids a few weeks ago and told all of the adults who were coming that there was no alcohol.
“I think it’s great to see this because it sends out the message that not all adults are prepared to use the excuse of a young child’s birthday party to get drunk.”
The Children Live What They Learn project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and the Public Health Agency. For more information on the campaign or for a family conversation toolkit or to talk about alcohol in the home, contact Drink Think on 028 7136 3925 or Divert on 028 7126 9327.