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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