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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,


halia Sun 06-Dec-09 21:38:39

as a youth worker and a mum I'm interested in the comments about 'not enough money' round here morrisons has just started a promo of 4 cans of carling for £1.

Now you might not get falling over drunk on 4 cans but its more than I think most parents of under 16 yr olds would be comfortable with their kids having.

Letting kids have it young - well like most things its nowhere near as simple as it sounds.
Scenario one: involved parents, good relationship with their teenage children, lots of support and discussion about sex, drugs, alcohol etc. Parents allow a shandy/ sip of wine/ tot of whisky on new years eve occasionally at 14+.
Kids see adults they trust modelling responsible behaviuor around alcohol.
(yes of course they will go otu ad model irresposbile behaviuor too but if you have seen people sharing a bottle of wine between friends and having a chat/laugh. you know alcohol isn't all about falling over.)

Scenario two: Parents neglectful, possible alcohol problems already in family situation, Paretns and older family memebers talk about 'getting legless' etc in front of kids, kids given booze frequently with no watch kept on how much and when.
Only role model kids have is that alcohol is somethign you use to blot out bad things, can make you violent, is got on the cheap ......

Scenario three: Parents want to do the right thing, think they ought to be invovled so when 14yr old asks for wine with the family meal they say yes, but no discussion takes place. Kid gets mixed messages about drinking and goes on to drink secretly.

they are simplified examples - but for me they help me to think about how I discuss alcohol with kids.

We need to talk to them about it - but without preaching or banging on and on and on. Generally 12yr olds+ DO know as much (if not more) than adults.
(neither lot know how many units in a bottle of wine, but both know alcohol can make you very very ill)

We need to give them safe space to talk to us, without jumping in with judgements or questions.

We need to make it clear that there is law regarding alcohol and that as responsible adults we don't condone breaking the law.
(personally I may think some laws are daft, but I still dont' advise or support breaking those laws)

in a sweeping generalisation or three;
most teenagers have alcohol before they turn 18
most people have been drunk at least once in their life (I dont' mean passing out drunk btw, just that next stage on from merry)
most teenagers are used to beign told they arent' old enough yet (even if they disagree) but they really resent being told that sex/alcohol/drugs/ are 'bad' because hello mum and dad - YOU DO IT!

But its not easy, on one side you have us lot trying to 'be there' for our kids, give them the right message and support them. On the other - alcopops and 24hr licensing, the influence of media, the perception of 'going out on the piss'.

Having said that, I've had to deal with idiots plastered up to their eyeballs on too many occasions, and I can say hand on heart its never been anyone under 16 (and rarely under 18) who's been outside a ngithclub / pub/ bar at 11pm throwing up in the gutter or pawing some poor lass.

Maybe we should spend a bit more time thinking about the messages that go out to the 18-25 yr olds? Or surely all we have is a juggernaut of anticipation from puberty onwards of the first night they can go out and get legless legally.

Pixel Mon 30-Nov-09 00:20:42

I was brought up being allowed to have a taste of alcohol on special occasions and by the time I was a teenager that meant I would have a glass of babycham or something at Christmas. I can honestly say I never wanted to go out and get drunk and I rarely drink now so I think my parents were quite sensible. I meant to do the same with dd (nearly 14) but she isn't interested and has never even tasted wine.
Mind you, I don't think alcohol holds any mystery for her as she was brought up in a pub until she was 9 and we've always spoken openly about it. She knows people go out to have fun and drinking in a pub is part of that, but she also knows that some people go too far and make fools of themselves or develop a drink problem. She has never seen me or her dad drunk so I hope we have set her a good example of enjoying a drink but being responsible about it.

nooka Fri 27-Nov-09 05:27:26

My ds (10) had a whole term of the terrors of drink and drugs. We thought it was a bit OTT and told him that many people (his parents included) drank and took drugs in moderation and for enjoyment without any problems, but that for some people of course it was a very bad thing. I don't see the point in telling children things they will find out not to be really true, because I think that really undermines the key message which is to be careful.

My children are only 9 and 10, so not yet out there boozing away, but I'm not about to kid myself that at some point they won't.

The only questions relevant to us are have they asked about alcohol at dinner, yes, and they both get to take a sip of our wine if they like (but not G&T type drinks). ds rather fancies himself as a connoisseur, whilst dd (9) is not so keen.

They have seen us drunk the once, when we had a meal together that turned out to be rather more boozy than anticipated, and they were really interested in how silly we got, asked lots of questions about how it felt (and the hang over), and occasionally bring it up with some degree of disapproval.

As a teen my parents were fairly similar, sips at home and that's about it, but of course we still went to parties and got drunk on whatever was going, nicked the half empty bottles of liqueur from the back of the cupboard, got served in pubs whenever we could get away with it etc etc. I don't think my parents had a clue as to what I got up to at times (and wasn't much of a hell raiser at all). dh has some fairly hair raising stories about getting very drunk at gigs and making his way home across London completely out of it, which I expect will be told to the children when they are older. His parents didn't seem to think that was a problem, perhaps because he was with a fairly reliable bunch of friends.

I'd be more worried if the children have very wild or uncaring friends than them drinking per sey. But then ask me in 5/6 years time and I might feel very differently.

Milliways Thu 26-Nov-09 18:16:55

•If your child comes home drunk: Not happened but she does come home at 3am!

•If your child asks about alcohol at dinner etc, we would let them, but they never want it.

•If your child is going to a party and you think there might be alcohol there - Talk to them about being sensible. By all means try a drink but preferably at home first.

•If your child is going out and asks to take alcohol with them - allowed from age 18.

•If your child has friends round and they bring alcohol with them: We confiscated it! We explained that the other parents couldn't know that alcohol would be available and as they were all 15/16 I was not allowing it for other peoples kids in my house.

If an older sibling gives your younger child alcohol - not happened, they know we would let them try what they want with our supervision.

•If your child sees you drunk / asks about your drinking - we share a bottle of wine most Friday & Saturday nights. The kids pour it for us! We don't get drunk in front of them!

•How to supervise your child if they choose to drink: Our rule has always been that whenever they want to try a taste of what we have they are welcome. If they want us to buy alcopops etc or anything they are interested in we will get it for them to taste and see the effect it has. Apart from very weak Sangria with loads of fruit DD liked nothing until aged 18, when she discovered some cocktails! She does drink a bit now (afaik) is always sensible.

Going to secondary school (as by age 13 most young people have tried alcohol) - Not a problem. Mine have never been offered it at school and the other scenarios are covered above.

piscesmoon Thu 26-Nov-09 17:02:56

I think in my case BlingLoving they simply didn't need to because we didn't have enough money! I live in an affluent area and I am amazed by the amount of money some DCs have to play with.

BlingLoving Thu 26-Nov-09 14:02:07

It's quite interesting how things change. I can't add to this debate from my own experience as a parent. But I'm fascinated by the number of people who'v explained to their children about the dangers or alcohol. Is this a new thing?

As children we were allowed sips and as we got older that changed to actual glasses of wine or beer. By the time we were 16 or 17 (SA was still pretty conservative back then), our parents knew there'd probably be drinking when we were out and we were told to be careful, but I don't remember ever getting told specifically about the dangers of alcohol? Ditto, at university my dad used to let me take wine that he didn't want to have with university friends and they must have known that there were times we were drinking a LOT but again, we didn't get told about the intrinsic danger of alcohol. We did regularly get reminded not to drink and drive and to be careful when driving late at night as even if we weren't drunk, other drivers might be.

I don't think it ever occrred to my parents to warn us about the dangers of alcoholism or anything similar?

abra1d Thu 26-Nov-09 13:41:44

My children have never seen my or my husband drunk. We would regard this as a loss of control and dignity.

THey may have seen us merry--but there's a big difference.

My two have seen their aunt slowly kill themselves through drink. We would never let them worry about us.

foxinsocks Thu 26-Nov-09 12:56:41

Coming from a family where there are and have been a lot of alcoholics, I have been very honest with my children.

I only drink a little bit, dh drinks more. Obviously they have seen the alcoholics in my family too.

I have told them the damage alcohol does - they can see it with their own eyes. My poor mother is only in her late 50s but her skin is so wrecked from drinking, she looks about 80.

I have given them the message about drinking in moderation and they know that some people get drunk for fun. I don't know how they will turn out when they are older but I have at least armed them with the information I hope they will need. In the back of my mind and I'm sure in the back of theirs will be the knowledge that some people believe there is a genetic component to alcoholism and at least the fact that it very often seems to run in families (whether genetic or not).

I think they need adverts, like they did with smoking - you remember the ones where they squeezed out the crap from people's arteries and showed you what it looked like?

If you could see the colour of my mother's skin, the state of her liver, what she looks like when she's pissed herself and is lying in a heap....I think that sort of message would be good to give to everyone. I think we are very very shortsighted about the damage that excessive alcohol consumption can do - and even that what some people consider 'normal' drinking is excessive.

JustGettingByMum Wed 25-Nov-09 22:54:21

DS1 - 16,(lower sixth), DS2 - 14, DD - 8

•If your child comes home drunk
Never happened

•If your child asks about alcohol at dinner etc
DS1 - every 6wks ish, allowed glass of wine or sml bottle lager,
DS2 - xmas/celebrations only (1 glass)

•If your child is going to a party and you think there might be alcohol there
Only happened once, he told me there would be alcohol. We discussed and decided we would prefer he took some small bottles of lager from home rather than drink stuff that was there. (given 4 small bottles so he could share with his friends).

•If your child is going out and asks to take alcohol with them
Only happened once - as above. Would not allow under other circs at this age.

•If your child has friends round and they bring alcohol with them
They would not be allowed in!

If an older sibling gives your younger child alcohol
Never happened - and dont think it would, DSs are quite protective of each other and younger sister.

•If your child sees you drunk / asks about your drinking
We drink at weekend, never been an issue - will occasionally ask for a sip if we have something different/new.

•How to supervise your child if they choose to drink
Hope we have a good enough relationship with our DCs that they would talk to us - tbh, just dont see it as an issue for us at this time.(Touches wood, and says several Hail Marys)grin

Going to secondary school (as by age 13 most young people have tried alcohol)
? what are you asking here?

JesusChristOtterStar Wed 25-Nov-09 22:18:39

teens aged 17 (upper 6th young for year) 15 and 13

•If your child comes home drunk- not happened

•If your child asks about alcohol at dinner etc - not happenned

•If your child is going to a party and you think there might be alcohol there - ds 1 goes out and stays out quite often - since gcses we are fairly relaxed . Just say 'be sensible -you wont enjoy being ill' etc etc

•If your child is going out and asks to take alcohol with them - not happened ,i would let some lager go i suppose

•If your child has friends round and they bring alcohol with them - would not let them with 13 and 15
17 yr old i will let them but observe from time to time

If an older sibling gives your younger child alcohol
•If your child sees you drunk / asks about your drinking
- say 'dont judge me not your place' wink

•How to supervise your child if they choose to drink
Going to secondary school (as by age 13 most young
people have tried alcohol)

my dd is irresponsible and her friends drink - i will happily lecture her - not allow alcopops etc (no way) maybe half glass of fizz for 15 year old girl if we are having a party at home for example

13 year old boy no way - no drink at all

sorry if this is all badly written

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.

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.

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?!

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

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.

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.

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 19:16:21

i agree with saggar too - alchopops =evil

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

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

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 17:06:41

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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