What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?

What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?

What are your views on drinking alcohol in front of your children?  Do you make a conscious decision to abstain when with your children or just not to drink to excess?  Have you ever been drunk in front of your children?

In a new report released by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) 29% of parents admitted to having been drunk in front of their children, whilst 51% said they had been tipsy.  Out of the parents that admitted to having been tipsy, 29% of their children said they had been embarrassed by their parents’ behaviour as a result and 19% said they felt they had been given less attention.

Invited to take part in a discussion on the findings of the report I was asked whether I drank in front of my teens.  My response quite simply was yes I do.  Asked my opinion on drinking in front of children I expressed the view that it was all about moderation.  Yet the English language is a fickle beast.  Moderate drinking can of course mean different things to different people, one person’s glass of wine can be another’s bottle.  So parents where should we draw the line?

The differentiating factor for me is responsibility.  We are bombarded by “responsible” marketing messages every where we look but the pinnacle of responsibility is surely responsible parenting.

As adults we know what it is to overstep the mark.  Thus, when it comes to alcohol, it is important as parents we exercise self-control when with our children.  This is at its height when they are younger.  Whilst that early parenting phase for me is well and truly over I was always conscious of the need for a sound mind at all times in case of an emergency.  In fact my husband and I have clocked up quite a few A&E trips with our children over the years and aside from being able to drive, a clear mind was very much a necessity on every occasion.

As they grow and move through the tween phase, our children become more perceptive and aware of boundaries of acceptable behaviour.  Add to this the benefits of education.  Tweens soak up information like sponges .  There is nothing more enjoyable than your child returning from school and brain dumping everything they have learnt in a series of “Did you know?” statements.  Included in this is the introduction to PSHE lessons and its important messages on social media, bullying, puberty, drugs and alcohol.  Tweens are suddenly armed with facts as well as an inquisitive mind.

In the report 11-12 year olds described alcohol as “like sugar for adults”.  Well that must be bad then.  After all we spend our lives telling our children to cut back on sugar.  Fizzy drinks are banned, juices and smoothies with their abundance of natural fructose must be limited, along with biscuits and cakes and sweets are forbidden.

Well to be honest in my house all of these things are allowed in moderation.  Yes there is that word again.  But it is a word which for me encompasses the necessary sentiment.  It is about the avoidance of extremes.  My children know the difference between what is acceptable and what will send their dentist or me into a tail spin and them out of control.  Isn’t it the same with us as adults when it comes to alcohol? By all means enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer but just know when to stop when children are present.

Now as a mother of teens have my parameters changed?  Almost certainly.  That is not to say I lose control and dance on the table, but a lazy Sunday lunch with teens is one of midlife’s pleasures and is more likely to end with a board game, a movie and an afternoon nap than a trip to A&E.

That said, it doesn’t mean I have abandoned parenting responsibly.  Control is the defining point in all of this and is one that we emphasised to our eldest teen when he started on the teen house party circuit and more recently when he headed off to university to confront the first hurdle that is Freshers’ Week and its inherent heavy drinking culture.

There is no right or wrong.  It all comes down to a matter of personal choice and everyone’s choice will be different, even within families.  The only element to remember is that we are setting an example for our children at all times with food, exercise and alcohol.  Ultimately, however, our children will make their own decisions regardless of the example we have set, or what they have learnt and they will almost certainly make some mistakes along the way because that is life.  In the meantime, whilst flying the flag for responsible parenting, let’s also remember life is for living – in moderation of course!


Did you see the report? What are your views on drinking in front of your children?  I look forward to hearing your views.


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  1. October 28, 2017 / 8:05 am

    Interesting post, growing up my father only really drank in front of us if we had guests or were at someones home for a dinner party, although us kids would be in a separate room we could see how dads behaviour changed, he was louder and would swear a lot more. My mum never drank and still doesn’t unless it is a sip to try something. I drank a lot during my late teens, we would go to parties or over to a friends with no parents home and drink. At university I drank way to much. When I got married an decided to try for a baby I gave up drinking for a year before trying. I now actually do not like alcohol I don’t know why, but I don’t so therefore I don’t drink other than half a glass of champagne if someone is celebrating. My hubby occasionally has a glass or two of wine in front of the kids, my middle daughter who is ten tells him he is naughty lol. It is interesting to think how what we do will affect them. My brother in law is a big drinker, I would say I consider him to be an alcoholic and his mum is too. I know his 17 year old son really resents him for it ad he refuses to drink even though his father says he should be drinking. He is not a violent or even angry alcoholic but it does distance him from my sister and his boys. #tweensteensbeyond
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    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 3:51 pm

      You have experiences from all ends of the spectrum to share. It is interesting how your relationship with alcohol has changed as well as your perceptions of others around you who drink. It is sad that your brother in law is trying to encourage his son to drink and follow him and admirable that his son is steadfast in his stance. Thanks for sharing. #TweensTeensBeyond

  2. October 26, 2017 / 4:49 pm

    This certainly opens up the door for lots of discussion! I dont really drink but my hubbie does and he enjoys the odd beer at home in front of the kids. I do notice though that the kids like to retell stories (my teens that is!) of their dad being drunk and doing silly things, which he has, its something they all like to laugh about, and to me thats the danger sometimes in as much its seen as the ‘thing to do’ but as i say to the kids there is no skill in getting drunk anyone can do it…! so lets not go glamourising it. That all said I dont mind mine having a drink and would rather they be open and honest about drinking then sneaking off and doing it.

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 3:54 pm

      I like your approach Sharon and you are right encouraging openness and honesty is definitely the best policy.

  3. Midlife Dramas in Pyjamas
    October 26, 2017 / 3:53 pm

    We drink in front of our teens, so they see it as something that’s not a big taboo, but never to excess. I have friends who think nothing of getting very drunk in front of their kids, but I really don’t agree with this. If I’m at a party, which includes children, I’ll purposefully not drink too much. After all, I’m still on parent duty and that will always come first. However, when I’m at a party without kids that’s a completely different story lol!

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 3:56 pm

      I could have written this myself! As parents there is still a need for us to set an example on all things, but with alcohol in particular there is an element of needing to remain mindful of being the responsible adult when with children.

  4. October 26, 2017 / 12:39 am

    My daughters are now past the age where this is relevant but I went from drinking rarely when they were small to an increased amount during teenage years – even so, it was probably only a glass or so of wine with dinner. Does such a responsible attitude rub off on them? Not that I’ve noticed. Young folk these days definitely drink more than I ever did at 18-19, and getting absolutely plastered when out clubbing seems to be the norm not exception. Still, I tend to shrug and think ‘it’s better than drugs’! (probably not something parents of younger teens even want to be thinking about) #tweensteensbeyond
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    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:05 pm

      I don’t recall there being as many drink aware messages present when I was growing up Mary but our teens are bombarded with an array of responsible behavioural marketing campaigns. As you say though do they or our behaviour make any difference? Only time will tell but in the meantime just 6 weeks in to my eldest being at university and I am horrified by some of the “drinking” stories that have emerged. #TweensTeensBeyond

      • November 22, 2017 / 1:29 am

        Argh! University! It can sound like one long drinking game, can’t it? And, as if they wouldn’t drink enough anyway, there are so many special events targeting students and encouraging them to drink more! In part, I’m glad my youngest is back home; on the other hand that means I know when she’s out till 3am …
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        • Jo
          November 22, 2017 / 11:01 am

          Yes am trying not to do the anxious parent but every event seems to be about more drinking and if you don’t drink you have to do a drinking forfeit so you just can’t win it seems.

  5. October 25, 2017 / 5:33 pm

    I am in two minds about this and I feel that it is an issue that will increase in importance. It has become very ‘fashionable’ to talk about Mums drinking. Just look at the whole advertising frenzy around Prosecco which is clearly aimed at ladies who have kids. Facebook groups for Mums are all about looking forward to having a wine! That’s fine and they have the right to do what they want and I drink myself s I am in no position to criticise!! However, should we be thinking about the message that this sends? Alcohol is very enjoyable and very lovely but it is also a very powerful and a very addictive drug. It can ruin lives. Teens have died because they have drunk too much of it. This is why I am so conflicted about the current trend. The teens of today were (on the whole) brought up by Mums (like us) who had a drink but there wasn’t a whole industry built around us drinking! I could argue with myself on this one Jo! It is an important issue and one that I’m sure will be debated for years to come. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:19 pm

      I hear you Sharon. Well said. The heavy drinking culture our teens inhabit is daunting and it all starts so early. I am not sure how much our own drinking habits influence that or whether as I suspect most of it is down to peer pressure. Interesting points about the campaigns aimed at mums with kids – I have heard during my parenting journey some mums explain their glass of wine as “mummy juice” – would seem “we” mums are being tarred with our own brush. To be continued ….#TweensTeensBeyond

  6. October 25, 2017 / 4:19 pm

    I’ll be linking up with a project I did a few years ago with South African Breweries to #tweensteensbeyond as i still find the information in there to be relevant in my relationship with my adult children

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:20 pm

      Thanks Suzanne, I will look forward to it.

  7. October 25, 2017 / 12:39 pm

    Hi Jo! Oh wow, where do I start with this one? We could discuss all day…over a few glasses of wine, of course! All I can say is that my kidults have seen me and my husband worse for wear a few times and but that, I mean having fun and being more giggly and doing more ‘dad dancing’ than usual. I do know that if I have gone over the top with the alcohol at a family party, for instance, and felt ill the next day the kids like to wind me up and say ‘do you remember that you were dancing on the table mum?’…they’re usually pretending 🙂 But when they were younger, I was always extremely careful about making sure I was always ready to get in the car if the occasion called for it – and as you mention A&E trips do invariably rear their ugly heads when kids are smaller…broken bones, temperatures that won’t alleviate, unusual headaches etc….and worse. So, I guess it was just when the kids got to around mid teens that I ‘cut loose’ a little more. I try not to touch alcohol Monday-Friday and then enjoy a few glasses over the weekend. Agree totally with everything in moderation and nowadays it’s usually me lecturing the kids about drinking too much. They’re pretty sensible as it goes – especially with their mates ready to capture every little drunken episode on social media! Now, that’s a whole other story! So interesting to discuss Jo! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:35 pm

      Things certainly do change as the children grow up and move through those tween and teen years and as you say it is also more likely that you will all be in an environment socialising together too. My husband’s family always have a massive get together once a year for all the children and adults and socialising, eating and drinking is what it is all about and my daughter gringes at the mum and dad dancing and always blames it on the bubbles! Life is for living and everyone’s parameters are different for sure. It’s all about moderation and whilst I adhere to a few dry days I am partial to Wine Wednesday. #TweensTeensBeyond

  8. October 24, 2017 / 8:42 pm

    We have a coulple of glasses of wine with dinner every night and have done since the kids were born (God knows we need it!) But I have never been drunk in front of them. Infact, its quite sad, but I havent actually been ‘drunk’ since my 20s. I think they’d run screeming fot their lives if they saw me drunk Laughing, dancing, giggling, being carefree and silly. It would freak them out. Best to keep it as it is I say. In moderation. A nice ouple of glasses that are just enough to relax you but not too much that we cant still discuss the issue of why the data plan has run out after day 12. Fab post Jo xx

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:36 pm

      That sounds like the perfect balance Liz and I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for your sage words.

  9. October 24, 2017 / 8:04 pm

    I drink in front of my children but not too much and usually with a meal. I haven’t had a problem with this. However my 16 year old son has researched about alcohol and is often telling me about the dangers of drinking even small amounts. So while I’m trying to relax and enjoy a G&T he might be askiing me if it tastes good enough to be worth the damage! He’s not planning to drink alcohol at all – time will tell. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:37 pm

      Oh the trials and tribulations of an over educated teen! Sometimes it does have its downsides. I have had many similar conversations of my own. #TweensTeensBeyond

  10. October 24, 2017 / 7:27 pm

    Yes, the debate! And ‘life is for the living’ and all things in moderation apply here. However, I think there is a difference between a ‘heavy drinking culture’ and drinking in front of children. Our parents drank in front of us (as did the wider family), this was in the day when kids sat outside pubs with the parents inside (shock horror). Didn’t do any of us any harm. No one in the family has been adversely affected. We drink in front of our daughter. I can understand that there is a problem if the house is a regular drinking den and children are exposed to it all the time but seeing the old parents tipsy from time to time – it causes a bit of a giggle, no harm done in my opinion. Much in the same way as when we were kids and an Uncle had too many Party 7’s. I am sure you will have divided opinions on this. A great topic to bring into the linky Jo #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:43 pm

      It is an interesting topic and of course one that is no doubt making us all mindful of what we say and whether we all do practice what we preach. The main point of course is in front of the kids and no two people’s perceptions of perfect behaviour in front of the kids will be the same. #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. October 24, 2017 / 7:12 pm

    I like to think my husband and I enjoy responsibly and in moderation in front of the kids. It is interesting, though, how they see alcohol and automatically go towards the worse (alcohol=bad). I think it’s an American culture thing, esp. with our age limit of 21y. It just makes alcohol more taboo. American kids can fight and die for their country, but not have a beer til their 21? In Europe I’d like to believe they are all more relaxed about it and way less drunk, too!

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    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:49 pm

      Is there ever a good age to start? Wherever you live the age you are allowed to drink by law is never the same as the age when you want a drink. The teens here start on the party circuit and then it is all about fake ID’s, buying drink and getting in to clubs all before they should and I am sure the same happens in the US. The legal age is never the right age. #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. October 24, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    I couldn’t agree more with you. Moderation is the key, whatever it means. Both my husband and I drink. But, we’ve never been drunk in front of kids. I would be open to them drinking with us when they are of a suitable age. These are pleasures of life, and I just can’t fathom how parents who drink themselves except their kids to not do it. Of course, I am not saying that it is good to drink. But, in moderation it is pleasurable.

    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:51 pm

      Wine like good food is to be enjoyed and it is so easy nowadays to spend so much beating ourselves up about what we are doing wrong and looking for ways of being a better person that the enjoyment of life and some of its simple pleasures just pass us by.

  13. Oldhouseintheshires
    October 24, 2017 / 1:24 pm

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with drinking in front of children but I do see the problem with being drunk in front of children. That to me, is a no, no. Drinking wine over lunch is quite accepted I think and my children have been offered watered down wine at a meal since aged about 13. I don’t see anything wrong with it personally. Keeping children completely away from alcohol just makes them want to drink more when offered it as teens. My teens are quite responsible around alcohol; it’s not a taboo thing, I do think that it is how you respond to any situation isn’t it? Having said that my children know the effects of alcohol on health and that alcoholism is a curse. I think as long as we are sensible around children and use our common sense, alcohol should not be seen as a bad thing. But that’s my personal view. #tweensteensbeyond
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    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:53 pm

      Your personal view Sophie is one that many seem to share and it all comes back to moderation and responsibility and hopefully those values will then be passed onto our teens. Thanks for sharing your opinion. #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. October 24, 2017 / 11:33 am

    Hmm, this is a tricky one. I don’t drink but my husband does. And he does it in moderation around my daughter who is currently 11. It’s really dependent on how well you can hold your drink and what sort of an example you would set for kids, I suppose? But I speak from the bystander perspective than an actual person who drinks, so I’d be interested to see responses from parents who do drink, on this topic.
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    • Jo
      November 21, 2017 / 4:58 pm

      It is all about the example we want to set isn’t it whether in relation to drinking, eating or exercise but equally our children may pursue their own route at some point to see for themselves.

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