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JM | Nov 2, 2021

Mitsie Harris-Dillon | Teaching alcohol resistance skills with ‘The Parents Movement’

/ Our Today

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Mitsie Harris-Dillon, interim president of the NPTAJ. (Twitter @MitsieHarrisDil)

Whether through entertainment, social media or by persons in and around their homes and wider communities, children in Jamaica are exposed to alcohol consumption at a very early age. Despite this, only 32 per cent of 13- to 17-year-olds report any alcohol resistance skills being taught in school, according to the 2017 National Council on Drug Abuse Jamaica School Health Survey.

As such, we can expect that many of our nation’s children are desensitised to alcohol misuse, and can be led to believe that the misuse they are exposed to is normal and acceptable.

‘The Parents Movement’, a pro-active campaign pushed by The National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) in partnership with the Desnoes and Geddes (D&G) Foundation, gets this crucial conversation started between parents and their children.

Because parents would naturally have the greatest influence on their child/children’s life, targeting parents and aiding them with tools to impart to their children the indispensable knowledge about safe alcohol consumption, that is reserved for adults at the legal age of majority (18 years and older), is critical in decreasing the prevalence of underage drinking in our nation.

As it stands, a study of a sample of 3,365 students from across the island, shows that alcohol is the most widely abused substance among our teenagers.

As it stands, a study of a sample of 3,365 students from across the island, shows that alcohol is the most widely abused substance among our teenagers. Though this finding and the knowledge of any substance abuse in our youth is regretful, we can fix it through educational campaigns, like The Parents Movement.

A ‘Trying Time’

This campaign comes amid what many Jamaicans would describe as “a trying time”. What do many people do when times get harder? They tend to stress, and sometimes they turn to and misuse alcohol.

Because of restrictions placed on our nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people will no doubt look for ways to cope with stress and boredom.

There are many positive coping mechanisms that people can turn to such as, exercise or adopting a pet, but we must also expect that negative coping mechanisms will continue to be available and be far easier to keep up with. Some parents may even increase their alcohol consumption at home. As such, we hope that through educating these parents, they will practice responsible alcohol consumption, because whether or not we realize it, our children are always watching and taking note of our behaviours.

Additionally, while COVID restrictions may cause a spike in alcohol abuse, we must also take into account the fact that as ‘normalcy’ returns, the excitement surrounding the ‘re-opening’ of the country could give way to more cases of social drinking and partying.

The Parents Movement comes at a time when many Jamaicans need it. The only way we can properly tackle the issue of irresponsible alcohol consumption is through education. While it is important for us to share this knowledge with Jamaicans of every age group, it is especially important to teach our children the significance of drinking responsibly. It is with great seriousness that we urge parents across the nation to realise the paramount importance that falls into their hands in changing the way our future leaders view and partake in alcohol.

Screenings of ‘Pon Anodda Level’, starring Jade Simpson, Marlon Tomlinson, Sherida Sharpe and Ricardo Warlock, were included in a launch event presentation made to a group of NPTAJ members from regions 2, 6 and 7 on Sunday May 16.

In addition to the videos, it included factsheets, and conversation starters, forming a tool kit to support parental dialogue on the risks of underage drinking.

The Parents Movement continues with sessions on Sunday, November 7 for Regions 5 and 7, then again on Sunday, November 21, 2021, for Region 4.

  • Mitsie Harris-Dillon is interim president of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica.

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