Tuesday 31 October 2017

Alcohol, Parents and Teens.

Last week on #TweensTeensBeyond Co-Host Mother of Teenagers asked 'What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?' I am a great believer that children follow by example and experience has shown me that if parents drink heavily or un responsibly in front of their children it can lead to them consuming alcohol at an earlier age.

I rarely drink when I'm on my own. There have been quite a few times when I've had a call in the middle of the night which has resulted in an emergency dash to a hospital with a child or for a family member. There was a situation about 12 years ago when I poured myself a rum and coke before bed and I was distracted by a last minute 'hunt the PE kit' when hubby phoned to say he'd arrived back at Heathrow but his luggage and car keys hadn't and I had to bundle 4 kids into the car and drive down from Worcestershire with the spare keys.

Back in 2014 I worked with South African Breweries whilst living in South Africa to raise awareness of their 18+ campaign to educate children and teenagers about the dangers of drinking and to say no to alcohol. It covered a range of subjects from signs your child is drinking, talking to your teen about alcohol and alcohol responsibility at social events. Part of the campaign included a family day out to Sun City where we spent the day on Segways providing us with the opportunity to talk about the dangers of drinking alcohol. I had another opportunity and a captive audience a few weeks later when the teen and I spent 27 hours on the Shosholoza Meyl Train traveling from Joburg to Cape Town.

Peer pressure is one of the biggest reasons kids drink. Adverts in the media show young adults, drinking alcohol and having fun, being grown up. TV adverts glamourize alcohol and the message of ‘enjoy responsibly’ is rarely taken in as a warning, more of a slogan.

There are many reasons as to why under 18s drink alcohol, they mimic behavior of others around them, their friends and family members, they may complain of being bored, stressed, unhappy, lack confidence, want to rebel or are angry. There could be death in the family, a change of school, not doing as well in their subjects as they wanted. 

Many teenagers go though these stages and not all take to drinking alcohol, some may take drugs also, self harm or become reclusive, some have eating problems. But not all teenagers resort to the above, some will choose to talk to a parent, a teacher, a family member or a friend. From an early age we teach our children about the rights and wrongs, we teach them to say pleases and thank yous to say no to strangers if offered sweets or a lift. We can empower our children from an early age to say NO to anything they don’t want to do, teach them to walk away, ask them will these so called friends be there to help them in a difficult situation? Teach them the concesquences of their behavior, their actions, even the future implications on their working and family lives and future relationships. A lot of what you say may appear to go in one ear and out the other, but they take in a lot more than you realise.

I've fallen out with many a friend because they've purchased alcohol for their child, as they put it 'to control the situation' I’ve had children to sleep over who've brought alcohol with them and had my kids return from parties where alcohol has been provided by parents. I’ve seen parents sneaking a bottle of alco pops to their children as as they call it ‘it’s not proper alcohol anyway’

As a child we had alcohol in the house, my parents weren't drinkers, in fact my Mother doesn't like the taste of alcohol and even as an adult has felt peer pressure to 'let herself go, unwind and have a drink'
We also have alcohol in the house and while I enjoy a glass of wine or a spirit from time to time, I rarely drink in the week and hardly ever alone. I tend only to have more than a few when we have visitors for a braai or a party and only have an alcoholic drink when out if hubby is driving and doesn't have any alcohol. I usually volunteer to be the driver because I don't NEED alcohol to have fun and to be honest too may people here tend to think one or two drinks won’t impair their ability to drive and besides as they say ‘I’ve had something to eat, it’ll be out my system soon’

I must say for us now with no children living permanently at home we tend not to invite friends with children round to social gatherings and many of our friends have babes in arms, we have never allowed our children alcohol at home other than to have a sip to try it when they’ve pestered and every time they’ve been disgusted by the taste and ask why do we drink it?

When the eldest child turned 18, we were in America where the drinking age is 21. We bought him a bottle of cider and he didn’t drink it, I guess being given permission by your parents isn’t a lot of fun.

The legal age in South Africa to buy and consume alcohol is 18. Alcohol to under 18s is only permitted for religious reasons and can only be given under supervision of the parents. In Dubai the legal drinking age is 21. You also have to have a license to purchase alcohol if you are resident here, which requires you having permission from your sponsor and proving you are not a muslim.

However the legal age in the UK differs greatly, a child under the age of 5 may only be given alcohol under medical supervision, aged 5 drink alcohol only on private premises, aged 16+ with a meal on licenced premises but the adult must order and pay for the alcohol and aged 18+ to purchase and drink alcohol, unrestricted. 

Do you allow your child to consume alcohol? What are your reasons?


  1. oooh you've had a blog do-over. Nice.I have always drunk in front of my daughter - sometimes I get giggly silly and she has always found that hilarious. I have once been ill on the effects of drink too, she was not sympathetic. Since she was about 15 I've told her she's welcome to have a glass of wine or beer with a meal but she's always declined. Now at 17 she has declared herself teetotal. We shall see!

    1. all my kids have had 1 drink too many and don't think i know about it, but then they still think I came off a boat only yesterday

  2. Suzanne thank you for the mention. You raise some really interesting points here. This is such a divisive issue and particularly for those of with teens as they start to go out to parties and become exposed to drinking. I know of many parents who introduce alcohol to their children early at home but this is not something we have ever done. My eldest started drinking when he started going to parties at 16/17 which were very rare to be honest and he never drank at home. We have always emphasised the need to remain in control and now he is at University I hope he abides by that. However, he will no doubt make some mistakes along the way as all young adults do. Once they get to a certain age there is only so much we can do but our own conduct as parents remains important when with them. Thanks for linking. #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. I just hope I’ve taught my kids it’s possible to have a drink and enjoy yourself both with one sensibly and also without us just as much fun

  3. As you know Suzanne, alcohol causes a huge number of problems for society in the UK and I feel that as a nation we have yet to define our relationship with this substance. I feel very conflicted about the issue and could quite easily have an argument with myself! I have noticed a huge number of posts about drinking on social media, often directed at young women and often including jokes about the size of wine glasses etc. I do worry about the problems that we may be storing up for ourselves in the future. Thank you for sharing your thoughts at #TweensTeensBeyond

  4. Another interesting post on this subject and as a mother of tween, there is no way on earth that I would even consider any of this stuff now. I guess it is the next step on and there will also be those parents that do and those that don't. I'll be the boring parent here. Of course, it's a little way off but my usual parenting rules will apply in the first instance. However, I am of the generation that had their dummy dipped in dad's beer, East End's knees up's and my friends and I, were very early into pubs. No harm done in my opinion. When I look at the culture of drinking today, I find it so very far removed from how it was for us - yet we had access to it. I need to think on this one I'm afraid #tweensteensbeyond