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Talk to Drinkaware about various issues surrounding underage drinking – x3 £200 voucher prize draw NOW CLOSED

(207 Posts)
MichelleMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 07-Oct-13 11:12:12

Drinkaware would like to find out Mumsnetters' opinions on talking to your children about alcohol and underage drinking.

Here's what Drinkaware have to say, Drinkaware is pleased to be working in partnership with Mumsnet to raise awareness about the issues surrounding children and alcohol. By providing tips and expert advice to mums, we hope to encourage them to feel confident in talking to their children about alcohol in the pre-teen years, before the onset of peer pressure. For more detailed information on how to do this and to practice conversations using our interactive video, go to"

This thread will be open for one month, during which we will add new questions (with a total of three questions over the month) to the thread. All of the questions will centre around how to approach issues surrounding alcohol with your children.

Before we add a new question to the discussion there will be a prize draw for a £200 Amazon voucher for everyone who added has their comments and thoughts to the thread so far.


1. "Thinking about those (sometimes) tricky conversations with your children about topics such as sex and relationships, drugs, online safety: how important do you think it is to talk to them about alcohol, and at what age do you think is the best time?"

2 "Medical experts recommend children are not allowed any alcohol before 16. Do you think this is the right age? Or do you think that you should introduce children gradually to alcohol from a young age under your supervision?"

3 "How much of an influence do you think your own drinking behaviour has on your child? Do you think it is OK for your child to see you or your partner drunk?"

Thanks and good luck!


ChasedByBees Sat 19-Oct-13 10:03:49

I think raising the drinking age would be a terrible idea too. I think 21 in the USA is far too high.

I used to have a small glass of a snowball at Christmas time from a young age. I'm not sure whether this was a good idea or not - it meant it was a huge treat which I'm not sure is a great way o think about alcohol but I did savour it rather than down it to get drunk.

I think encouraging children to see alcohol as something other than a drug to get drunk quickly is a good thing, so I imagine I'll let DD have a small glass of wine with some meals if we do when she's a teenager (we do this only every couple of months now so it wouldn't be frequent). I won't let her drink high alcohol content drinks until she's 18 (as far as I can anyway).

teenagetantrums Sat 19-Oct-13 09:23:25

Well i have been allowing mine to have a shandy or 1/2 cider from the age of about 15 i think. The had the odd sip when they were younger.My oldest is 19 now and obviously i have no say in what he drinks but he seems quite sensible. My DD is 17 i don't think she really likes the taste if offered a drink when we are out for a meal she will normally say no and have a coke. We had her birthday party here a few weeks ago, two of her friends had be collected as they turned up having been drinking before one couldn't even stand up, her mother was not happy, thankfully i have seen mine in that state.

kateandme Sat 19-Oct-13 01:34:49

i think an important thing is to know your child.some can be ready at 16 and some very much cant or dont want to.i dont think we should push it on them or make it a big thing.on their 16th birthday i wont suddenly go yaaaay you can have a drink now.if they ask well discuss an age and then as and when they want it.
but if there are partys and things or celebrations i think 16 is the yonugest or even 17 i would offer them a drink.but just casually not getting drunk.i stikl wouldnt wish them to be drunk at 16.though i would think it might be hap[pening with friends it doenst make it right.and id want them to be very careful.
i still think 18 the drinking age is when they can be causal about drink and not jsut on the odd occasions.

aaaahyouidiot Sat 19-Oct-13 00:29:48

I think you have to talk to them about alcohol from an early age because society will expose them to its effects and cultural significance even when they're tiny. We try hard not to glamourise it, or talk about being drunk etc - our eldest is 6 and well old enough to absorb unhealthy messages. We do keep it simple though - some people drink too much and it makes them do silly things, feel unwell and it is bad for them and it's not a good idea. But lots of people like to have a drink and that's OK.

With regard to medical advice, if that's based on evidence then it's not a matter of agreeing with it in my mind. If there's evidence it's harmful before 16 then who on earth would encourage it? However, it wouldn't stop me allowing the occasional small shandy or drop of wine with a meal to teens.

AndHarry Fri 18-Oct-13 21:26:40

Drinking alcohol is contrary to our family's religious practices, however for families who don't share our beliefs, I think it is very wrong to give a child a harmful drug when they are too young to object or know what it is they're drinking. I would agree that 16 is old enough to make an informed choice about drinking alcohol but I would worry about the effects of peer pressure. I used to drink alcohol and it wasn't all that; I don't understand why it's seen as a must-do in British culture.

ladygoingGaga Fri 18-Oct-13 21:03:23

I really think every child is different and parents need to talk to their child when they think it is right.
I think children shouldn't see adults drunk, but see that is part of adult life, something to be enjoyed for the taste and product not for the effects.
I will talk to my DS about the negative effects, if he see's drunken behaviour on tele, i will talk to him about it.

I was brought up in the continent and a very small glass of wine was normal for a teenager to have during a Sunday family meal, it introduced it so there was no mystery.
It gave me a healthy attitude towards alcohol, it wasn't a taboo.

missorinoco Fri 18-Oct-13 19:24:54

Age 16 sounds reasonable, although I would be interested to know how this age has been devised.

In theory, (with under tens at present,) I can imagine a world where I offer alcohol with a meal over the age of 16. It feels wrong that you can get married with parental consent at 16, but be advised not to drink alcohol.
However, I think alcohol enters the teenage world long before this, and can recall peers very drunk at the age of 13-14.

BooItTooJulia Fri 18-Oct-13 18:33:50

1. I think talking to your kids about everything is really important, including tricky things. Alcohol is something my kids see. We have dinner in the pub, enjoy a glass of wine at the weekend, and they see it at family gatherings and the likes. So,to ignore it would be weird! Obviously we use age appropriate language and concepts and discuss it as part if normal conversations. It's no different to teaching them about lots of stuff really!

2. In an ideal world, yes, 16 would be a good age to start introducing alcohol, but I also think it's unrealistic. I too like the German staggered approach, and the French way of letting older children sup (diluted) wine with dinner. It makes it less attractive to go binge drinking as soon as you are old enough to.

3birthdaybunnies Fri 18-Oct-13 17:19:42

We adopt an open approach to discussing alcohol and it's dangers with our dc (8, 6, 4), and they only see us drinking very moderate amounts. Our oldest tried alcohol for her first Communion and hated it so think it will be a deterrent for a few years. An outright ban would be very hard to enforce - what about alcohol in religious celebrations, in cooking etc, and it will mystify it further.

Responsible parents will know not to give their children a couple of glasses of cider a night, just as they know not to give them cigarettes, drugs etc. Those parents who ignore the law and think it is cute to give a cigarette to an 8yr old will also ignore laws to not give alcohol. Doesn't mean that a responsible parent shouldn't use their discretion and let an almost 16yr old have a glass of bubbly when their sibling turns 18.

mignonette Fri 18-Oct-13 16:11:34

We will never have a 'Continental European' attitude to wards alcohol and its consumption. The extended opening hours has been a failure.

Thankfully neither of my two children like alcohol; they seem to have inherited my physical aversion to it. However I have always been open about alcohol with them, they have been made aware of the problems it can cause via my own work in substance misuse over the years and they have witnessed my grief for patients I have lost to alcohol abuse.

They have been affected by the loss of a dear family friend to alcohol induced Hypothermia a few years ago and know that alcohol makes people less aware of not only personal danger but of danger to their friends. They know that the risk of being robbed, mugged or attacked increases when you are drunk and have defences lowered.

They do consume alcohol via food though as I have always cooked with it. They see my DH enjoying his whiskies and see it as something that can be savoured as well as swilled down to get drunk. The fact that we are regularly woken up until 3-4 a.m in the morning by loud drunken people walking staggering home is a great deterrent too!

Alcohol awareness needs to be taught in school to a greater degree. However the problem is so deep rooted and wide spread now that i despair of change happening.

purpleroses Fri 18-Oct-13 16:09:36

1. "Thinking about those (sometimes) tricky conversations with your children about topics such as sex and relationships, drugs, online safety: how important do you think it is to talk to them about alcohol, and at what age do you think is the best time?"

You can start to tell them about alcohol from about 5 or 6 as soon as they encounter adults drinking it. But my eldest (son) is nearly 14 and still hasn't encountered any sort of teenage drinking. So the right age to have proper detailed conversations about how to deal with drinking or friends drinking need to come at whatever age they start to come across it.

2 "Medical experts recommend children are not allowed any alcohol before 16. Do you think this is the right age? Or do you think that you should introduce children gradually to alcohol from a young age under your supervision?"
I'm not aware of any medical reasons why small amounts of alcohol are any worse for a 14 or 15 year old than they would be for a 16 year old. 12 year olds can have all adult medicines, and by 14 or so most are physically adult size so I can't see why alcohol would be any worse for them than at an older age.

I'm not in favour of giving it at all you young children but from about 12 years up, I don't think a very small amount is harmful. And from 16 up it's better to get them used to a unit or two from time to time in the company of family than with mates behind your back. I also think it's better to encounter drinking before leaving home. My youngest will turn 18 probably only a few weeks before she'll go off to university and I wouldn't want her coping with being away from home at the same time as finding out about getting drunk when she's got no one to come home to.

Trills Fri 18-Oct-13 14:52:57

I like the staggered approach as practised by Germany

At 14 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, as long as they are in the company of their parents or a legal guardian.
At 16 - minors are allowed to consume and possess undistilled (fermented) alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine without their parents or a legal guardian.
At 18 - having become adults, people are allowed access to distilled liquor.

I think that raising the drinking age would be a bad idea.

woodchuck Fri 18-Oct-13 14:40:37

My dcs do see people drinking, as we have beer or wine at home on a weekend and have larger family parties/bbqs severak times a year where people drink alcohol. I never take them anywhere where they would see people who are drunk and out of control, although I know they will see this before too long.

We try and educate our kids about moderation, yes, we enjoy alcohol, but don't need to take it too far and get messy. My kids have had the occasional sip of lager or a weak shandy, and I think this is fine. Cultures where drinking in moderation is part of family and social life are often well-balanced and not prone to drinking to excess. i think it helps to demystify alcohol.

When we discuss alcohol, we talk about the risks people might take if they are drunk and what consequences this can have. We talk about health and healthy behaviours at home quite a bit as I work in public health so often vent at the end of the day!

StrangeGlue Fri 18-Oct-13 14:26:58

2. I think 18 feels okay. I think its would be tricky and pointless to raise it as I think it wouldn't effect those whose drinking you were trying to delay. I think it feels weird to lower the legal age on something we know is, in excess, harmful. Seems like giving the message it's okay to drink really young.

StrangeGlue Fri 18-Oct-13 14:26:27

2. I think 18 feels okay. I think its would be tricky and pointless to raise it as I think it wouldn't effect those whose drinking you were trying to delay. I think it feels weird to lower the legal age on something we know is, in excess, harmful. Seems like giving the message it's okay to drink really young.

StrangeGlue Fri 18-Oct-13 14:24:28

I think you do need to talk to your kids in the same way about drink as you do drugs and sex. It's both easier and harder - easier as drinking isn't taboo and isn't something your kids cringe to think of you doing (unlike sex) but also harder because some adults think quite warped approaches to drinking, especially what's an okay amount, are okay so I think its easy for kids to get mixed messages.

THERhubarb Fri 18-Oct-13 13:46:52

1. What I have learnt is that there is no set age to talk to children about the issues surrounding alcohol. My kids see myself and dh drink and we have spoken to them about alcohol. I readily admit to them that for me, it tastes nice and I enjoy drinking it. More often than not they see us drinking with a meal; for relaxation and for socialisation. They know that we never drink and drive, that we never drink alone and that we don't often drink during the week.

I do think that setting an example is important but you also need to have the conversation about what alcohol does. So I have explained to both of mine (aged 13 and 9) that too much alcohol can make you do things and behave in a way you would never normally do. I've told them how it can put people in danger and make them vulnerable.

They have seen us drunk on occasion and we were able to talk about why that happened, how they felt about seeing one of us drunk, how we felt the next morning and how the drink made us behave in an odd way. It's never our intention to get pissed in front of the kids but it sometimes does happen (recently at a wedding) and I think that allows us to talk to them about it at length, so they can see how easy it is to get into that state and they can also see how it can make you do silly things. In fact I think it helps if they have seen drunk people otherwise they might think that it would never happen to them or that being drunk is somehow fun.

I think the current drinking age at 18 is unrealistic. Most kids are drinking from a much younger age although that doesn't mean to say we should encourage this by legally allowing them to drink at a younger age. It just seems stupid that you can have sex, get married and start driving but you can't drink alcohol.

I don't like to see youngsters drinking, I don't think they have any idea what it is doing to their young bodies. I think that as part of their wider education at school, pupils should visit an A&E department at a weekend so they can see first-hand how alcohol ruins lives. They should talk to victims of drink driving, they should talk to medical staff, they should talk to alcoholics and visit the wards because no message gets through quicker than a first-hand experience. Too many kids think they are invincible and that getting pissed every weekend is something everyone does. They rage against authority and if something is against the law, they want to try it. A huge wake-up call is what is needed.

kellyscarlett Fri 18-Oct-13 13:36:07

1. "Thinking about those (sometimes) tricky conversations with your children about topics such as sex and relationships, drugs, online safety: how important do you think it is to talk to them about alcohol, and at what age do you think is the best time?"
My mother died of alcohol abuse we lived with her so my kids witness it,i dont drink and my kids now think anyone who drinks will die,i have explained obviously but im pretty glad that they know the damage it can do.
2 "Medical experts recommend children are not allowed any alcohol before 16. Do you think this is the right age? Or do you think that you should introduce children gradually to alcohol from a young age under your supervision?"
absolutly not they are children! who are we to poisen our babies? i would never ever encourage my children to drink,having said that when they are older i would not judge them for it as its their perogative but as a serious tee total i feel strongly anybody who feeds young children alcohol is a disgrace

defineme Fri 18-Oct-13 13:16:06

My youngest children are eight and I've just repeated simple points to them: 2 drinks is enough and that's how much we have (Mum and Dad); never drink and drive; being drunk is stupid and dangerous.
These things have come up at places like: multi generational parties; being in town in the evening (many drunk people in our city centre); when they've heard adults telling 'funny' stories of people being drunk (I've pointed out to them how much they hate it when they're sick so it's best not to drink too much for that reason alone); when we're eating out and one of us won't drink because we're driving.

I have relatives that owned a pub and I was shocked at how early children were encouraged to join the drinking culture of their small rural town...perfectly normal for 13 yr old to be given several drinks at a family party, they were surrounded by adults whose only leisure activity was drinking at home or in the pub: it's just so limiting.

I started drinking alcohol secretly with friends at the age of 11/12 and was very excessive in my teens and early twenties. I want my kids to avoid the dubious alcohol related situations I frequently got into and that's why I'm so vocal about it with them. I don't share with them about that now because they're a bit young!

I think 16 is reasonable to start having an occasional drink, I haven't read any evidence to support gradual introduction from an early age. I think binge drinking is a UK cultural problem and introducing kids to alcohol at a younger age(like the French do) isn't going to reverse the celebration of inebriation that is so common here and frowned upon abroad.

pertempsnooo Fri 18-Oct-13 13:03:08

My children have an alcoholic relative therefore it was unavoidable to discuss alcohol when they were relatively young. They have seen the worst side of it and hopefully that will make them wary of it.
If a child wanted to taste wine or beer then that's ok, we had a small glass of wine with Sunday dinner from about 10 years old. The attitude of the parents is obviously crucial and in the UK where habitual boozing is accepted and binge drinking is a bonding ritual I worry all the time for my childrens' future welfare.

Tinlegs Fri 18-Oct-13 12:32:50

My mother is an alcoholic, as is one of my sisters (and possibly one more) so my children have had graphic illustrations of the dangers of alcohol, much as I have tried to keep it from them. We both drink, but they know our rules, only in company (not just the 2 of us,but with guests / when out) and not to excess. They have seen merry, tipsy people and know that two glasses of wine and their Mum thinks she is one of the Abba singers. They find this both amusing and embarrassing. Their Dad has a higher tolerance but they have, only once, seen him bouncing off the walls.

But these occasions are infrequent and part of celebrations or large occasions. They know we keep alcohol in the house, enjoy wine as a pleasure but do so responsibly, in the same way we enjoy chocolate or cakes. They are aware of the dangers of addiction, both medically and emotionally. They have been brought up being shielded and warned at the same time. We used to run a pub! They also know that the drinks industry is about making money.

One child can't stand the taste or smell. The other (14) has had the odd sip of beer or wine and likes the taste but is wary of it.

ILoveAFullFridge Fri 18-Oct-13 12:24:30

Why 16, anyway? Our bodies do not complete puberty until about 20 or more? If young, developing bodies are endangered by any amount if alcohol, surely it should be banned until 20 or even older?


ILoveAFullFridge Fri 18-Oct-13 12:21:47

What medical experts? Kindly provide me with appropriate sources before expecting me to accept such a sweeping statement.

Very very hmm

Banning alcohol pre-16 is IMO a recipe for secret under-age drinking, and for binge-drinking.

Seeing as Drinkaware is a drinks-industry organisation, I can't help being very hmm at the 'advice'. After all, I have just done exactly what I bet they want: said that young people should be allowed to drink.

MoogDroog Fri 18-Oct-13 09:53:26

I think the idea of actually introducing alcohol from an early age is ludicrous. Why? To what end? It is a drug, pure and simple, albeit a legal and socially acceptable one. We would not do this with any other drug.
People underestimate the physical harm that alcohol can do, not just with long term heavy use. It's effect on the developing brain must be taken seriously, and if medical experts suggest 16 then I guess that is the best age to work with.
I'm under no illusion that young people will not experiment with alcohol (and other drugs), but I feel as parents our job is to encourage a healthy attitude and full possession of the facts (in an age appropriate way). The thought of consciously weaning them on to alcohol I find abhorrent, much the same as if we were discussing methamphetamine or cocaine.

ScientistwithoutWhiteCoat Thu 17-Oct-13 22:08:41

Which medical experts recommend no alcohol before 16? Is this on the same lack of evidence as the recommendation that pregnant women shouldn't have even one glass in case they can't tell the difference between one glass and a binge?
Will they change the formulation of many child medications to remove alcohol, eg oral thrash treatments that are 1% alcohol?

Banning alcohol totally until 16 will just encourage experimentation in secret, which is way more dangerous than a glass on special occasions. All kids I've known who got into problems drinking were the ones who felt they couldn't tell their parents as they'd be judged for having drunk, whereas those who were open with their parents tended to mirror their parents' drinking - if the parents were never seen drunk, the kids tended not to get too drunk.

Encouraging confidence to talk to others and in particular negotiate sex without the need for dutch courage is probably key, but not sure how to do that.

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