A young Donegal actor has recited a harrowing poem to highlight the effects of alcoholism on children at Christmas.

Donegal based national charity Alcohol Forum has recorded a version of the classic Christmas poem, ‘Twas the night before Christmas’, to raise awareness of the harmful effect our drinking can have on children during Christmas.

The video features a nine-year-old actor reading a poem which paints a dark picture that children across the country might face when their parents have been drinking.

The poem was rewritten by an advisor to the Alcohol Forum, Moira Mills, and draws on the real life experiences of many children and families who have been adversely affected by excessive drinking.

We can all take steps to ensure our children feel safe while celebrating this Christmas.

There will be thousands of families getting together over Christmas or planning parties where people will be having a drink and there are simple things we can all do to make it a good experience for everyone, especially children.

Excessive drinking can have serious consequences for the safety and well-being of family members, with children being the most vulnerable. When asked, 1 in 11 young people aged 12-18 said parental alcohol consumption had a negative effect on them.

Whilst this poem highlights the harsher experiences that some children can have, the Alcohol Forum hopes the poem will prompt all of us to think about how children might feel or the risks they might face when alcohol is consumed in excess.

The Alcohol Forum’s online ‘Festive Guide’ has practical advice for adults to ensure everyone is protected and children feel safe while celebrating this Christmas. The top three pieces of advice are:

  1. Make sure there is at least one safe, non-drinking person at family functions where children are present or on the premises. Parties and get-togethers can get loud and events where alcohol is being served can result in raised voices, arguments or accidents which can be very distressing for children. The safe adult is their safe haven should they need it.
  2. Plan activities for your family that don’t involve alcohol. This helps children see that you don’t need alcohol to have a good time. Get outdoors or play board games or group games that involve everyone.
  3. Don’t ever drink and drive. Arrange a lift or a taxi in advance and ensure you have money for the fare. Never take a lift from someone you think has been drinking or taking drugs. Be aware that you may still be affected by alcohol the next morning as it takes a least an hour for each standard drink to leave your system.

Kieron Doherty, Alcohol Forum’s CEO, says “Christmas and New Year is when we get together with family and friends and often have a drink or two. But it can be a stressful time and sometimes alcohol can make things worse. We’ve put a ‘Festive Guide’ on our website with simple suggestions for people to help reduce the risk of harm from alcohol to ourselves and especially children.”

The guide and poem can both be found on their website at www.alcoholforum.org. If you have been affected by the content of this poem, please visit the Alcohol Forum’s website for information on where you can get support.

The Alcohol Forum is encouraging any child who is worried about someone’s drinking or who wants to talk to someone about anything that is worrying them to contact Childline on 1850 66 66 66. Calls are answered at any time of day or night every day.