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“We encourage everyone to look after each other around alcohol this Christmas,” says Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) chief executive Gerald Vaughan.
“Christmas is a time for celebration and getting together with friends and family. However, sometimes it can be ruined by too much alcohol. If you choose to offer alcohol at your home during Christmas, set the tone and make it a safe and enjoyable occasion,” he says.
ALAC and Relationship Services have some tips to help people manage alcohol issues and make Christmas enjoyable for everyone.
Jeff Sanders, chief executive for Relationship Services, says there are some simple things people can do to cope with the busy Christmas time and increased social pressures.
“Ask for help and offer help, co-operation lightens everyone’s load. Make sure there are activities that the kids will enjoy, if they’re having fun it will be easier for you.
“At this time of year we may spend time with people we generally avoid; if things get tense take a deep breath, change the subject or walk away. Turning to drink won’t solve the problem.
“Finally, make sure you have some time for yourself,” said Mr Sanders.
Mr Vaughan says being a responsible host helps to eliminate situations which could lead to at-risk drinking.
“We encourage people to talk to their friends and families to ease up on the drink. This will help everyone have a good time. It will also lighten the load on emergency staff, who see a lot of alcohol-related harm at this time of year,” he said.
Advice for hosting friends and family this Christmas
Set your expectations in advance
Be clear what you’re inviting people over for - and what you’re not expecting to happen. If you know there are some people that are likely to get drunk, talk to them in advance and put things in place to keep them safe.
Set the tone
If you’re hosting, watch your own alcohol intake so that you can continue to have a great time and keep an eye on everything.
Plan to do things other than eat and drink
The best bit about social occasions like parties and celebrations is catching up with people and having fun. Plan entertainment or activities to get people up out of their chairs and talking and laughing, but don’t mix alcohol with any potentially dangerous activities.
Provide substantial food - not just chippies
Make sure there is always plenty of food available and keep passing it around. Ask people to bring a plate so you don’t have to provide it all yourself. Try to avoid overly salty food that makes people thirstier.
Serve interesting non-alcoholic drinks
It’s surprising how people will really enjoy something like a grapefruit and tonic with a chunk of mint in it for a change.
Only refill empty glasses
Wait until your guest’s glass is empty before you re-fill it – and ask them if they would like another drink first. If someone says “no” to a re-fill, don’t insist.
Don’t keep serving your guests until they are drunk
If you see someone getting too tiddly, get them to ease off the alcohol and offer them some coffee or a yummy non-alcoholic cocktail instead.
Don’t host alone
Ask family members or friends to help keep everything fun and in control.
Get out all the old sports gear for a game of backyard cricket, touch, softball or frisbee.
Supervise the kids
If young children are going to be there make sure there’s a responsible adult or older person looking out for them and providing entertainment.
Set an end time
Make a time for the party/BBQ to end and stick to it.
Look after your guests
Don’t let them drive home if they have had too much to drink. Ensure they get a taxi or offer them a bed for the night. Don’t let people walk home alone.