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Drinkaware - What to say and when to say it

When talking to your children about alcohol, it can be hard to know what the right thing to say is, and when to say it. So the folks at Drinkaware have provided the information below to make sure you know what level of alcohol understanding your children are likely to be at, be it just awareness or experimentation


Ages 8-10 - Awareness

Most kids of this age have ideas about alcohol (some true, some false). They're likely to think it makes grown-ups silly , that it could cause problems (both true); they may also think their parents are getting blind drunk when they're just having a glass of wine.

Most parents don't talk much to their kids about alcohol much at this stage. Big mistake: this is the perfect time to start getting the right messages across. Those messages are: alcohol is for adults, not kids. Adults can enjoy in moderation, but if they go too far, there can be risks too.

Ages 9-12 - Curiosity

Parent drinking glass of wineAround this age, they're more curious. So answer those questions: tell them what alcohol is (a drug) and that it's been used by adults for many years as an aid to relaxation and having fun. It does this by affecting your brain and your body, making you feel less inhibited.

But it's dangerous to take too much of it – people who do that often end up injured, or they do or say things they didn't mean to do or say. Also, tell them about how alcohol has different strengths: a small glass of wine won't have the same amount of alcohol as the same amount of vodka, for example.

Ages 11-13 - Experimentation

This is the age when your child will probably be thinking about experimenting with alcohol . Research shows that delaying the age of first drink reduces the risk of problems, so try to encourage them to wait rather than trying alcohol straight away.

Some parents think it's a good idea to allow kids to drink at home rather than leaving their first taste of alcohol to a time when they're with their friends, but there's no real evidence on this. The most important messages to give them are that alcohol can be dangerous, and that drinking it isn't something to start doing too early, or to do ever to excess. Remember, too, that they'll be watching your drinking (they always have been!).

Ages 13-17 - Experience

TeenagersSo: chances are your child has tried alcohol by now. The main message you need to get across is that binge drinking (which many teenagers indulge in) is bad news.

Drunkenness leads to injury, to unplanned sex, and to all sorts of other difficulties. Talk to your teenager about the problems that too much alcohol can cause. Also, make sure they know that any alcohol in the house is yours, and isn't there to be freely raided by them and their friends.

If they have a party, draw up the boundaries carefully. Be on the premises yourself; provide snacks; make sure there are non-alcoholic drinks available, and agree on an end-time. At parties that aren't at your home, make sure an adult is going to be present. Don't be worried to call the other parents to find out for yourself – they'll probably share your concerns and you could agree on boundaries around alcohol and supervision.


Last updated: over 3 years ago