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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,


noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 13:23:46

They are not being encouraged though the parents are acknowledging what is already going on and tbh it is easier to 'police' at a aprty than in the park or on the beach!We are not talking plying teens with alcohol just being involved in what they are already doing

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 13:27:13

noddy, we'll have to agree to disagree.

MIFLAW someone else said that her experience which was much like yours, was the reason she didn't drink.

So who really knows what the factor is in becoming an alcoholic or not.

I don't doubt there are alcoholics in France, but binge-drinking is not common there at all. You don't get gangs of youths on the street corner with cans of Stella or fighting outside pubs and nightclubs. It just doesn't happen.

Tortington Wed 25-Nov-09 13:59:23

i think binge drinking in parks is a british cultural thing.

i think what i am saying is that - yes, i allow my twins to go to a party and have a drink, 'managing' the situation as best as i can, becuase the culture is such that they may go out and get a bottle of cider and end up passed out in a park. I manage the risk.

I give a little leeway and get a lot in return with regards to relationship with children and openness and honesty and most of all safety.

I think it is fundementally wrong to treat a 15 yr old as one would a 10 year old.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 14:02:33

That is what I have tried to do custy and it appears to have furthered the trust between us.I don't encourage him to drink and if I had nmy way he would be tucked up with cocoa but I do feel I have some clue what is going on Have seen girls out cold in the park and it is terrifying.

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 14:13:52

But I think that by allowing them to go out to parties with alcohol, you are also saying it's ok for the other children to drink at those parties too, some of whom may be younger than your kids.

And it puts pressure on those teens who don't turn up with alcohol.

Because let's face it, at 15 they are not adults. They might think they are, but they aren't.

Repeat all of this back to me once my two become teens grin

abouteve Wed 25-Nov-09 14:15:40

Same here Noddy, I don't encourage it but don't have a blanket ban either. So far so good and it hasn't been my DD out cold in the park yet!

Tortington Wed 25-Nov-09 14:22:51

i am responsible for my teenagers. I will not universally parent random 13 year olds that might be at a party my daughter attends.

(which isn't likely)

the parents of that should parent their child. I have to draw a line somewhere.

abouteve Wed 25-Nov-09 14:26:59

Cannot imagine DD wanting to party with children that are any younger than 15 tbh. They opened up the local nightclub to under 18's just recently. They went to 2 then stopped because years 8,9 and 10's had cottoned on. grin

MIFLAW Wed 25-Nov-09 15:07:20


completely agree that public binge drinking does not really happen in France.

But you do have to ask yourself who is buying all that red wine with the screw tops at a pound a litre ... Might not be teenage bingers, but it probably is alcoholics (well, it was when I bought it, anyway.)

I think my point is that it is desirable in and of itself to prevent teenage binge drinking, because that's how a lot of youngsters who otherwise DON'T have a drink problem get hurt.

But this in itself will not actually do much to prevent the same sort of proportion of teenagers growing up to be problem drinkers in adulthood. They're just more likely to do it at the bar or in their own home ...

DanDruff Wed 25-Nov-09 15:56:50

isnt the letting kids haev a bit young been shown to be a crap idea now - sure there was a report recently.

I also think parents TALK about being drunk in front of kids too much, which i see as distasteful.

as far as mine are concenred ( 11 9 and 6) i am never drunk or never notice

if i was that inebriated in front of them surely i would be " drink in charge of a child"

DanDruff Wed 25-Nov-09 15:57:10

WHY do we always end up talking abotu chuffin France on these threads

abouteve Wed 25-Nov-09 16:07:41

I mentioned that DD had seen me drunk but that is something that I'm really ashamed of and try hard not to repeat. Agree if parents are going to go out and get pissed they should arrange for young children to be cared for elsewhere.

Not sure what report said that a little bit young was a mistake. Depends how young I suppose. Would wait until they are curious about alcohol rather than giving them it at 5 al la french mode.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 16:15:55

Little children don't like the taste!And teenagers do not refer to their parents habits when they start experimenting.So you can be as french as you like but if hot boy/girl at party passes you the cider I am sure that at 15 your parents are the furthest thing from yor mind!Better to acknowledge that teenagers drink and make them aware that no matter what you are there for them.

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 16:27:21

You sound familiar DanDruff.

I think I brought France up first on this thread. The reason being was because I remember the conversation with my teenage pupils on this very subject and all of them professed amazement that British teens go out and get slaughtered, they wanted to know why.

Sure drinking is a problem in France too, but it's a different problem. I guess heavy drinking is done in private due to lack of pubs. You don't see teens in those little bars, just old men mainly. And they do a lot more family things, so teens will be part of the huge family meal. They are very family orientated.

In this country the problem is alcohol being bought for teens so they can get smashed on it. I agree with custy that off-licences need their licences revoked if found to be serving under age kids. Parents need stiffer penalties for supplying. I'm not talking about being penalised for giving your kid the odd beer at home, but for going out and buying a crate of beer or litres of cider for your kids and their mates to party on.

Being pissed is seen as socially acceptable in this country, it is encouraged and people glamourise it. It's talked about on the TV and radio as though it's all great fun and such a hoot. I don't know any other European country that glamourises being pissed as much as this country.

It's practically our national pastime.

Only now society is turning more of a blind eye to younger drinkers. Parents now freely admit providing alcohol to their kids, that wouldn't have happened 30 or 40 years ago. It's all out in the open now, kids are encouraged to get pissed, even the police just take the booze off them and that's that. No-one does anything about it, we are getting far too lax and eventually our kids will just be a generation of boozy pissheads. The exceptions are in the minority, whereas it used to be the other way round.

DanDruff Wed 25-Nov-09 17:06:41

no tis not just you
its evry thread baout fashion too
" well in france"
piss offf! grin

saggarmakersbottomknocker Wed 25-Nov-09 18:21:16

Agree with Rhubarb.

Also 24 hour drinking in the UK was a crap idea. Our culture is wholly different from Europe and we will never have that attitude to alcohol. Everything shuts down in the afternoon and they eat late, teens go out early evening and are expected home for the evening meal not like here where it's a quick bite at 6 and out to the park for the night with a bottle.

And my one suggestion to Ed Balls or whoever is responsible is to stop allowing the manufacture of alcopops. They are the work of the devil frankly. Stop dressing booze up as pop and stop glamorising it.

I drank alot as a young person (and am still prone to overdoing it now) - I was given small amounts of alcohol at home from around 12. It didn't stop me going out and getting spectacularly drunk. I didn't give mine drink at home and that didn't stop (ds2 particularly) going out and getting spectacularly drunk either. The main difference is he can get legless a whole lot more cheaply than I could.

DanDruff Wed 25-Nov-09 19:12:52

agree with saggar - i think the goevrnment was TOLD about the policing implactions of 24 hrs

Tortington Wed 25-Nov-09 19:16:21

i agree with saggar too - alchopops =evil

DanDruff Wed 25-Nov-09 19:18:00

in fact unttil the govenemnt does LISTEN to people and SPEND MONEY on things to help other problems we are all doomed. Funny hwo they have no money for even a youth club in each town yet finds ££ for 2 weeks of Olympics

was chatting to a drugs pc about this today - everythign on the cheap - even prisons. just pisses you off

Tortington Wed 25-Nov-09 19:23:26

its more a smack in the face becuase its a labour govt imo, if it were conservatives ignoring these problems - one might expect it.

Rhubarb Wed 25-Nov-09 19:32:14

Too true Custy, too true sadly.

It's currently the labour government that is taking the job of parenting away from the parents, the labour government who okayed 24hr drinking and the labour government who fail to provide basic help where it is needed, lavishing money on the Olympics instead.

We have a crap reputation in Europe and beyond. Known only for the yobs and hooligans, violence and drink. England always was an ugly country in that respect and it's just getting uglier.

noddyholder Wed 25-Nov-09 19:42:01

24 hr drinking ridiculous I agree.They were thinking purely of revenue.This will never be like europe as we don't have the weather to sit around over a glass for hours in the evenings so everything is a bit rushed and covert.I have always told ds better to have a decent beer etc rather than those bloody alco pops although he says no one he knows likes them and I have seen photos of parties and they seem to have cider bottled beers and water!NO ALCOPOPS!Thank the lord

whomovedmychocolate Wed 25-Nov-09 19:47:21

Mine are too young for it to be pertinent but I reckon my parents had the best idea in not making it special in any way and saying 'some people drink, some people don't. As long as you don't have too much it doesn't matter which you choose. We will always collect you if you make a mistake and drink too much. Never be afraid to call us if you need us to come and get you.'

I have been drunk only a few times in my life (very low alcohol tolerance two units and I'm unconscious).

Mind you when I recently spoke to my daughter's teenage DD, I got her to cut down on her (underage) drinking by pointing out that alcohol in many people can make their skin much worse (because of the dehydration etc.) grin

Perhaps with teenage boys, brewers droop could be mentioned?!

piscesmoon Wed 25-Nov-09 20:21:38

In our case we were rather helped by DS1s example. He didn't want alcohol and I was the one trying to persuade him! I was worried that he might suddenly find it at university where it seems to be very much the culture and I thought that it would be better to sample some at home first. He always refused it, he just didn't like the taste (from the few sips he had had). He has never felt the need to conform to others and he used to go out with friends to parties etc and have soft drinks. He did start to drink at university but he never has much and he will now have wine or beer at home. I haven't seen him drunk.
I think that this has been useful with the younger ones because subconsciously they take in the message that you don't have to follow the herd. DS2 is very different, he likes a drink, but he is sensible and as he is usually the driver he can't have any. If he does intend to drink he has his girlfriend driving or they have arranged taxis. He set out to get drunk on his 18th birthday but I don't think that he has had that much since-I suspect that he doesn't really like the feeling- but he wouldn't admit it to me.
DS3 doesn't drink much, when he does he gets sick pretty early on (much sooner than most people). We have told him that if he is going to drink to stick to beer and not to get onto spirits.
Alcopops are the very worst IMO because they make alcohol acceptable to those who don't like the taste, they disguise it with sugar and should be banned.
DS1 and 2 are very fit which helps and they need a high level of fitness for sport.
I am shocked by the number of parents who will supply alcohol for parties.
I don't think that I am a lot of help because it seems largely down to luck in our case.
I like a drink but I learnt, when at university, when to stop and I just don't like it past a certain stage. Too much gives DH a migraine, so although we have a drink quite often I suppose we give a moderation message as an example. We have always given them a taste, even when quite young (I mean sips here).
It depends on the make up of the DC. I have 2 nephews of a similar age and the eldest drinks very little and the younger drinks too much-but I think it also has a lot to do with the circle of friends.
The best message to give, while growing up, is that you don't have to follow others to be popular-it is OK to be different.
If they have come home drunk I don't show any sympathy-and tell them that they have brought it on themselves. I always checked their arrangements and stressed that they must phone if they need picking up-whatever the time. I have always stressed the safety aspects and know that they would look out for others-and,so far, friends have looked out for them.
It is naive to think that they won't drink, so it is best to make sure they are responsible.

abouteve Wed 25-Nov-09 20:50:31

It seems to me from this thread and from RL observation that most parents let teenagers try a bit of alcohol. Very few would provide crates of it (not mumsnetters anyway) and even less would forbid it in their presence until 18.

I have told DD that not all adults drink, that it's certainly not compulsory or a rite of passage. Needed to say this as most of her family are typical adults who do partake.

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