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Young people and alcohol. Advice, tips and opinions needed

(60 Posts)
carriemumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 24-Nov-09 23:03:34

Hi all

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls' bit) have approached us for some help. They are launching a campaign in January about young people and alcohol and want to include useful advice on their website aimed at parents - and this is where we come in. They want the advice to be from parents and based on real life experiences. They have a number of scenarios (see below) and want to know what parents would do/ what their advice would be in each of them. Plus they want to know if there are other situations parents have found themselves in where they would have valued advice/ or can offer advice based on that experience?

Here are scenarios: What do you do/say

•If your child comes home drunk
•If your child asks about alcohol at dinner etc
•If your child is going to a party and you think there might be alcohol there
•If your child is going out and asks to take alcohol with them
•If your child has friends round and they bring alcohol with them
If an older sibling gives your younger child alcohol
•If your child sees you drunk / asks about your drinking
•How to supervise your child if they choose to drink
Going to secondary school (as by age 13 most young people have tried alcohol)

We think it would also be interesting to hear how Mumsnetters talk to their children about alcohol (if at all). Do you allow them to have a taste now and again (and from what age?)
At what age do you think it's acceptable to drink ?
Is at least one episode of drunkeness inevitable/desirable so they "get it out of their system". How do you reconcile what you were like as a young person (whether you were a heavy drinker or a tee totaller) with the advice you're offering?
What "tricks" to look out for (you know the vodka in the water bottle thing) and what works best in terms of actually affecting behaviour ie is it scare tactics - you'll get raped/ mugged, it'll damage your health/make you less attractive, sanctions, or a laissez faire approach based on the idea that they will soon learn when they get sick/ a hangover?
What do you say about your own drinking?

It's a massive topic (and a pretty massive post) we know, but we didn't want to restrict it too much, so have deliberately left it quite open so we can help to gather the best bits of advice, anecdotes etc.

Thanks in advance for your help,


DanDruff Tue 24-Nov-09 23:04:37

i taught it for a term if they are interested - kids sick of exaggeration and being lied to - a bit liek sex ed and STD fear.
can cope wiht typing it all out here...

DanDruff Tue 24-Nov-09 23:05:12

adn from court natch - is ALWAYS an issue.
but they woudl have to phone me
am tired.

BecauseImWorthIt Tue 24-Nov-09 23:15:52

Wow. Massive subject.

DS1 is 17, will be 18 early next year.

DS2 is 14, will be 15 early next year.

DS1 has a reasonable social life; DS2 has none (horrible, recent fall out with friends)

DS1's social life is fairly limited - band practice, going into town (London) during the day at the weekends, occasional curries in Brick Lane.

I know that he drinks occasionally, (Indian restaurant in Brick Lane provides a bottle of red wine along with said curry), but he doesn't go to parties, and has told me that he things the whole 'drinking to get drunk' culture is stupid.

He has been seriously drunk once, and that was at our house, at a New Year's Eve party, about two years ago. He had asked if he and his friends could have a drink. I agreed; I hadn't, though, expected that they would then 'sneak' drinks all evening. The point at which I realised he was drunk was very late on in the evening. I took him upstairs and made him drink some water - which made him sick. He hated that, and he hated the hangover the next day. I know that this was an important lesson, as I saw a text he sent to a friend, in which he said he never wanted to feel like that again.

I am under no illusions that he will not do it again (how many times do we vow 'never again'?!), but I do think it was a useful lesson, even if it was not one that I would have planned.

DS2 has had the odd drink, but nothing more than this - at least to my knowledge.

abouteve Wed 25-Nov-09 11:53:27

DD 15 is allowed to have some alcohol at home under supervision as and when she asks which is approx once every two months. She has been allowed this since she was 13.

She has never been drunk. She was allowed more that usual at a party last Christmas but stopped when she started feeling the effects.

If alcohol is available at an occasional party she goes to with her friends, she will have no more than two drinks.

She has seen me very drunk once or twice and finds it embarrassing. She also questions my drinking if I go over the usual few glasses of wine at the weekend. I tell her I use it to relax.

By her age I had probably been very drunk to the point of collapsing several times. I point out the dangers of having too much alcohol. I tell her to look after her friends on a night out etc, as I think this is the main danger for young girls drinking, that they are carried away with no-one looking out for them.

Hope this is useful.

Tortington Wed 25-Nov-09 11:59:40

20yr old and twins aged 16.

I know from my own experiences and also from the experiences of my peers ( working class mostly) that when we were teenagers we were buying cider and getting drunk at a weekend.

I know from all the teenagers ( friends of my teens) that i know - that this is the norm.

I know that if i didn't foster an open relationship with my children, that they would get drunk in the wrong place at the wrong time, they would NOT phone me for fear of reprisals and they could end up seriously injured or dead.

i believe the age that teens get into this thing where i live ( and this may vary regionally) is 15.

I know that my teens were going to parties at this age, i knew that alcohol would be there - becuase they told me. They felt secure in doing so.

•If your child comes home drunk
If my child came home drunk aged 15 i would put him/her to bed with a carrier bag at the side of them so they don't puke on the carpet.

•If your child asks about alcohol at dinner etc
Think this is a middle class thing. We don't drink during the week. ergo the children do not know this as a lifestyle choice. They have had a glass on NYE natch.

•If your child is going to a party and you think there might be alcohol there.
as previously mentioned, i hope i have fostered a safe environment where my children can tell me these things honestly.

what i can do is rather than bury my head in the sand thinking MY precious children would NEVER do this kind of thing, that it is a stage that a lot of teens go through - so i have to manage this situation in the best possible way to ensure their safety.

if there is a parrty - i need to know where it is
who will be attending
i need to drop them off at the location
i need to pick them up from location.
i need then to be safe in the knowledge that they can ring me if they get into any trouble.

•If your child is going out and asks to take alcohol with them.
Not my alcohol - it's mine. So how are they going to buy it if i don't?

•If your child has friends round and they bring alcohol with them.
Not a scenario i have had. However i would ask friend if it's ok to ring parents to check that they know that they are drinking alcohol.

If an older sibling gives your younger child alcohol.
again not a scenario that i have had. but if older sibling were in my house - given the open upbringing, i assume they would ask me first anyway.

•If your child sees you drunk / asks about your drinking.

DH and i only go out to drink once a fortnight ( and not even that at the mo)
we go out, we get drunk. the kids have seen this and accepted this as a norm for us as parents ( whether that is a good or bad thing is another question)

•How to supervise your child if they choose to drink

as previously mentioned, i think my role is to 'manage' this as best i can to ensure their safety. communication is key, knowing whee they are who they are with telephone numbers and picking them up.dropping them off.

Going to secondary school (as by age 13 most young people have tried alcohol)

i can assure you that my teenagers were not geting shitfaced at 13! - a glass on NYE

whether nature or nurture - my kids did not rage against the parental machine until they were 14, by the time they are 15, i knew that it was pretty much inevitable so as a parent i do everything i can to minimise their risk.

I firmly believe that it is as easy to get hold of cannabis and i hold no truck with drugs. I dispise cannabis with my very being ( personal experience) and i mention this as alcohol and drugs are mixed.

The twins found out that a couple of days ago TWO aquaintences ( friends of friends who they ocasionally hung out with) BOTH died aged 16 becuase they OD on Ketomine.

This shocked them very much. DD cried. It brings home their own mortality. They think they are bullet proof - that only old people ( aged 30 and above!) die.

this gave me a great 'in' to tell them how much they mean to me, how precious they are and how i would be 'broken' if anything happened to them. Reinforcing what i have always said, i continued to tell them - that things like this are the reason i need to know where they are and what they are doing.

i do believe that authoritarianism is the way to go until aged 14 - when they start raging against you as the parent - instead of saying to yourself that your child would never.... I firmly believe its about accepting what is and managing that scenario

also - TOUGHER SANCTIONS MR BALLS. for those off licences that sell to minors. Yes there are sanctions in place - but do you know how far councils are willing to let shopkeepers take the piss until their licenses are revoked?

THIS is what needs addressing.

whilst one can get somone older to nip into Tesco - my own experiences tell me that most teenagers wait outside the local 'offy' and wait for someone to buy it for them.

whilst i have been asked - i always say no. However it can be intimidating.

Buying for minors by proxy should be looked at v. seriously. The laws and policies already in place should be acted upon quickly and promptly. Off licences should be held accountable. being small businesses, they should be frightened of losing their livleyhood. In reality - they clearly are not.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 12:03:34

My ds is 15 will be 16 next spring.He does drink a few beers at parties I myself have bought these on occasion.he has never been drunk as such and we have never had to go and get him etc or seen him unwell or hungover from it.ALL teenagers in his circle indulge and girls seem to be worse in terms of getting really drunk and drinking regularly.At home he wold never touch it much prefers juice.Tbh the reporting in the tabloids is nothing that I or he have experienced and I am much more concerned about drugs as there has been a fatality at a party local to s this weekend sad.I think it is inevitable they will have an episode its a bit of a given but keeping the lines of communication open and not getting too hysterical have worked for s so far.

Tortington Wed 25-Nov-09 12:04:22

please don't use this topic an yet ANOTHER was of using the govt agenda through schools. Let the schools teach.

if you want to change parenting culture please invest in universal parenting classes.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 12:06:35

The u is sticky on here so the s should be Us sorry xx

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 12:09:08

We have a very French approach to alcohol. The children (aged 9 and 5) see us drinking wine during a meal, they've accompanied us to pubs and no doubt they've seen us tipsy.

I don't want to paint alcohol as this big bad thing because that just makes it more desirable to them as they get older. Instead, we believe that if they see us drinking sensibly and in social situations, that's the attitude they'll learn.

Both of mine have asked about alcohol and I've told them both the good sides and the bad sides. They know that alcohol can trigger violence.

The biggest lesson they received on that - I think it stuck with dd more - was when our best friend lost the sight in his eye due to his friend being pissed up and aggressive.

We actually spent New Year with our best friend and this other friend we'll call D. He was great with the kids, seemed very relaxed, chilled and laid back. When dd found out that it was him who had caused the damage she was really shocked. That taught her more about the bad side of alcohol than I could have done.

I would never ever supply teens with alcohol. Once my kids are that age, if they are going to a party where alcohol is served, tbh I would probably have a word with the friend's parents to voice my unhappiness that teens are being encouraged to drink. I wouldn't stop my kids from going, but I would pick them up afterwards and ensure they are safe.

No teen would be allowed in my house with alcohol. My house - my rules.

I would like to teach my kids about drinking as part of a family. With a meal where everyone is chatting and the wine is part of that.

At Christmas dd will probably get a small glass of fizzy as a treat. Because I think that if you ban it altogether, again it makes it more desirable.

In France teenagers drink with their family. They don't tend to hang around on street corners getting pissed. When I taught in a French secondary they all seemed puzzled that British teenagers had this attitude to alcohol, they had no respect for our culture because of it. It's that attitude I want my kids to have. Difficult in this country I know.

Above all, I want to be firm but fair. I don't want to be a hypocrite.

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 12:12:30

Actually I feel quite surprised and annoyed that so many parents are willing to supply their kids with alcohol to go to a party, or let them have a party that serves alcohol. Because that puts pressure on other kids to bring alcohol so they are part of the crowd.

I would have very strong words with any parent I knew who did this. It's not on at all.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 12:21:03

I have found our openness in letting ds take a beer or two from the fridge has been fine.I don't think any kids at these parties are not having at least a glass and tbh ds often has come back with a beer still in his bag.I don't want my ds hanging around older kids asking them to buy stuff from shops for him.It is only in the situation that you can decide whats best.My dp is a recovering alcoholic and we have had to be rational about it as many non drinkers demonise drink and end up with more trouble.My ds has never been to a party without parents back at midnight so it seems safe enough.I think you feel your way with your own child.All ds contemporaries seem to have a similar level of freedom in this area we know all the parents bar a couple and we have always socialised together and alcohol has been there.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 12:21:50

Rhubarb I didn't see that last post am assuming it is directed at me hmm

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 12:31:53

Well noddy, if your son came to my house with beer he wouldn't get in the door. And if you held a party and provided the teens with alcohol then I would certainly confront you about it.

Because I do think that liberal parents are inadvertently putting pressure on other teens to drink. After all, they don't want to be the only ones without a beer do they? And if you, a parent, say it's ok then surely it must be ok for them too?

So my post wasn't directly aimed at you no, or I would have addressed you, but at all parents who happily provide their kids with alcohol to go to parties.

JaynieB Wed 25-Nov-09 12:33:32

We drink wine with meals several times a week, my stepkids age 14 & 16 and DD aged 2 all eat together. We've talked about alcohol and sensible drinking but also acknowledge that occasional overindulgence is going to happen and to be honest - can also be a lot of fun! SS aged 16 is allowed the occasional drink at home, SD aged 14 doesn't like it and prefers a soft drink. I hope we are providing them with the knowledge to make their own choices in life. We can't be with them all the time, but we can largely control their access to alcohol at this age.
A chum of DH has v diff attitude - he will happily drop his underage kids off at a beach party with alcohol and think nothing of it. Shrugs his shoulders and thinks this is quite normal.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 12:39:51

My son was probably the last of his friends to drink tbh and has one beer sporadically.I prefer him to have one decent beer than some of them who swig anything from lemonade bottles(recently dodgy vodka in brighton being sold for a fiver i was terrified)I think there would be no teenagers at a party without a drink at 16.I wouldn't say I was liberal just realistic.Ds gets quizzed on his return and laughs at us but he has seen the effects of drink and drugs and is not unaware of the facts.You really can't police your kids 24/7 and not many parents would be able to find out exactly what goes on.Some of ds friends with strict parents are the worst!

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 12:46:54

Well I'm not sure that sending them out to parties with alcohol is the answer. You just said it, no-one aged 16 at a party will be without a drink. So there lies the pressure.

And if we condone that as parents, then we have no high ground if it gets out of hand.

tbh when I was a teen, drinking frightened me. I didn't go to parties because I was scared of my mother (terrified) but I was also frightened of what drink did to people and terrified of the pressure I'd be put under to drink.

I don't want my kids to experience that and I won't allow my home to be used for that, or encourage any other kid to use their home as a drinking den.

Yes these things go on, but it doesn't mean we have to shrug our shoulders and turn a blind eye. Drink is responsible for a lot of unwanted pregnancy stats amongst teenagers, it's responsible for regretful sexual experiences amongst teenagers, it's responsible for fights amongst teenagers and tragic deaths.

BertieBotts Wed 25-Nov-09 12:48:09

I haven't got teenagers and will leave that side to the experts grin but I am 21 so my own teenage drinking isn't such a distant memory. I won't answer the questions as such but will just offer what I think helped me not go off the rails.

Firstly, before I started drinking (maybe age 14/15? I was a late starter I think, but most of my friends were the same) my mum brought it up just as a casual, jokey sort of conversation - probably in relation to someone being "humourously" drunk on TV or something like that. She told me stories of when she had been drunk which were funny, so I felt like it was more of a sharing conversation rather than a lecture. But she did try to describe the feeling of being sick while drunk or how the room spins every time you close your eyes and you want to go to sleep but you can't because closing your eyes makes you feel sick.

Then as part of this conversation (when I was relaxed, we were chatting, I didn't feel "preached to") she gave me the best piece of advice - if you feel sick when you sip a drink, you have probably reached your limit and it's time to stop drinking. If someone offers to buy/get you a drink at this point say no thanks, and if they buy you one anyway then just don't drink it - if they choose to waste their money when you've said you don't want it, that's their problem.

The other thing that helped was knowing I could talk to her about anything and generally having a good, open relationship - I wasn't tempted to lie about things because I didn't need to.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 12:55:16

Rhubarb it is responsible for all those things but there are kids necking all sorts in the park then turning up at parties.I have talked to ds and friends and pressure doesn't seem to figure as highly as the media suggests.I thought that too and it seems some people are just more likely than others. They were all here for pizza before the last party and I had wine they had coke .If there are no beers in our fridge ds still goes out happily and it is not an issue.Dp collects him and often a couple will stay over here they never bring alcohol here i wouldn't allow it but at a birthday party i would rather have some level of control and ds doesn't seem bothered either way.We have had the 'phone us no matter what happens and no matter who'and ds knows that.I think the press coverage depicting 'terrible teens'is misleading.The sort of person who ends up out cold smashed in the street has usually got other things going on and is using alcohol to medicate but that is the exception

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 12:58:26

Well perhaps you should try living where I live and have lived in the past.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 13:00:33

Maybe but I am just talking about my experience.

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 13:05:19

Yes but the trouble is that not every teen is as sensible as your son. There is peer pressure amongst teens to drink, there was when I was a teen and I don't see any changes to that. My teenage nieces have gone to parties and drank so much they've ended up in hospital. They say you'd be laughed at if you didn't drink. The parties were often held in other parents houses - it makes you wonder what the parents were thinking. Supplying a minor is against the law and I would not hesitate to shop someone if I knew they were doing this.
The media is one thing, the stats are another. We have a responsibility as parents - unless the government want to introduce safe drinking lessons in schools too.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 13:09:13

But you advocate the french way which is extremely like how we have socialised over the years inc ds and still the teens of these families want to drink cider with their mates.My ds knows intellectually that drinking sensibly with food is the 'middle class' message but still prefers his way i would think.As I said I would rather know what he has had than drink a potion concocted in someones bedroom.I don't claim to have all the answers but think I have prob given this more thought than most as dp is a recovering alcoholic and really do think it has worked for US.

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 13:17:48

I don't doubt the way you have brought your ds is the best way for you. What I question is allowing him to take alcohol into underage parties and those parents who allow teens to bring alcohol into their own homes to drink with their friends. Because not every child has that fantastic upbringing and therefore should not be encouraged to drink when they are underage, or put under any pressure to drink themselves.

MIFLAW Wed 25-Nov-09 13:18:35


In my experience alcoholism is a massive problem in France.

It just doesn't get diagnosed as often as here, precisely because drinking is such a part of "normal" life and because it leads less often to "anti-social" behaviour.

My parents also took your approach to alcohol - ie little and often, don't glamourise it or forbid it, etc. I ended up a raging alcoholic.

Not saying your (and their) approach caused this by any means - but it didn't prevent it either.

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