Should we drink alcohol in front of our children?
Parents’ drinking behaviours can influence a child’s relationship with alcohol. Children imitate what they see at home. So, if you have a drinking problem, you should be aware that your children risk developing one as well.
For that reason, here is a guide that tells you whether drinking in front of your kids is a good idea or not.
Some problems and stats
“Exposing children to drink-fuelled events” was one of the root causes of the UK drinking problem.
Most parents think that children don’t notice if they drink just a tiny bit of alcohol. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Children are smart, and they notice everything.
Moreover, children can notice if you’re acting differently under the influence of alcohol. How much you drink, how often you say: ‘Ah, that’s nice,’ while imbibing and whether you use alcohol as a reward or coping mechanism can all encourage adolescents to drink, according to a report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies.
In Australia, it is legal for parents and legal guardians to provide alcohol to minors in a private space with responsible adult supervision.
However, if you introduce your teenager to alcohol hoping they will have better drinking habits in the future, you should think better. Although there are not high rates of drinking teens anymore, apparently 7.6 percent of children around 12 drink occasionally. By the age of 17, it’s even higher, rising up to 66.3 percent.
Alcohol affects young people's development
Furthermore, alcohol can affect children and teens in different ways. Although it is legal to introduce alcohol to them with your supervision, you should consider these effects of alcohol on young people:
- Alcohol is actually a depressant that slows down the central nervous system. In high doses, the short term effects include slurred speech, reduced coordination and unconsciousness. The long term effects of heavy consumption could be impairment of the brain and liver functions, and in some extreme cases, death.
- The brain does not fully develop until the age of 25. Drinking before this age can have an effect on brain development that can lead to permanent brain damage and impair a young person's ability to learn and remember things. It can also pose a risk to the portion of the brain that is responsible for self-control and reasoning.
- Research shows that people who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop an alcohol dependency, compared to someone who does not drink until the age of 21.
Because of these effects, young people under the age of 15 years are at greatest risk of harm from drinking and it is especially important that they do not drink alcohol.
In fact, young people aged 15-17 years should delay their first drink for as long as possible and even then, restrict their consumption to a safe level (one or two drinks) and consume them in a supervised environment.
Should you drink in front of the kids?
Based on all the information provided above, our general advice is that you should avoid drinking in front of your children. They are easily influenced, and if they see their parents drinking, they will think it’s okay if they drink as well. Therefore, make sure you only drink when you're not in the presence of children.
If you have young children, alcohol should be kept out of the house. Children may come in contact with it, and it can turn out really bad. They can either end up drinking it or think it’s okay to drink. Consequently, they may develop drinking habits or an unhealthy impression of alcohol.
More importantly, while it is legal to introduce alcohol to minors, it doesn't mean you should. With the many health effects alcohol can have on young people, it is best to delay their exposure to alcohol for as long as possible.
Guidelines for parents
If you're a parent who's concerned about alcohol and your children, here are some extra guidelines to make sure your children don’t pick up unhealthy habits.
- Ensure you have a healthy relationship with alcohol yourself. Don’t abuse drinking, as your children will observe it and may be influenced. Basically, you shouldn’t do what you wouldn’t like to see your kids doing.
- Talk to your children and tell them about the risks of alcohol. Also, make sure you don’t talk greatly about hangovers. They may think it’s okay to throw up and have headaches.
- Listen to your children. You need to be actively involved in their lives and discuss what they’re doing. Get to know your kid’s friends and the friends’ parents. This will allow you to develop a common position regarding alcohol.
- Maintain a good relationship with your kid. This ensures you have great communication, and this trust may prevent alcohol abuse from happening.
Communication with your children is important, as you can prevent them from falling into the alcohol trap. Make sure you talk openly about this issue and don’t drink in front of them – you don’t want them to follow such an example.
Check out DrinkWise for more information on talking to your kids about alcohol and safe drinking.