Alcohol And Our Children

In the last couple of days I’ve learnt something that shocked me. Did you know that it is illegal to give a child under the age of five alcohol, however it is completely legal for a parent to give their child over the age of five alcohol in their own home.

If I’m honest this is staggering. The fact that parents can teach their children drinking habits from the age of just five years old is just wrong. Surely this is a world gone mad! It’s where supposedly liberal parents see it fit to give children a substance such as alcohol that could ultimately affect their growth and development.

In the past I have written about how I grew up in a household fuelled by alcohol, and I truly believe the influence of seeing this as a child impacted on me having issues with alcohol as an adult. It was normal to me that alcohol was ok, and the truth is, it is not normal or ok. So why would any normal thinking parent think that it’s ok to allow their five year old child to try alcohol and then wrap it up and say it’s ok, it’s Christmas, it’s allowed! These sort of parents are delusional!

I would like to make it clear even though I am tea-total and don’t drink any alcohol, I am not anti-drinking. It is entirely up to the individual to make the choice that they have an alcoholic drink and I would certainly not judge anybody for making that decision, but giving young children a drink so they can try it? No, that’s a step too far in my opinion.

Alcohol is a depressant. It’s also addictive and one of the biggest killers in the UK today. Alcohol can change your perception of what is real and what is not. Binge drinking is also a massive problem in the UK. Many people don’t have a limit and end up drinking to the point where they are incapable of making any sort of sensible decision. Introducing children to alcohol at such tender ages is in my opinion irresponsible and bordering child abuse.

If you were a smoker would you offer your child a cigarette at 5 years old? The chances are most people would answer no to that, yet alcohol can be just as damaging to your health, and the fact that alcohol is a depressant, introducing it to children so young could easily lead to mental health issues later in life.

I believe we as a society need to become a little less liberal in our attitudes and not introduce our children to things that quite honestly can be harmful to their health. I am not saying we go back 50 years in our attitudes of children should be seen and not heard, but we still have a responsibility to protect them and at the same time educate our children which can still be done in a responsible manner without letting them drink alcohol just because they ask what it is and can they try it. No, you can’t try it and here are the reasons why. Let’s not just cave into our children because it makes life easier.

This was a discussion on Great Morning Britain the other morning and one mother said she gave her eight year old child alcohol on Christmas day. I found this very difficult to understand. Why would you give a child alcohol? What is to be achieved by that? I could never see myself giving my six year old twins alcohol at Christmas dinner or any other time for that matter. It’s absolutely ridiculous behaviour, and sending out all the wrong messages to our children. Her argument was to introduce it now because by the time they are teenagers they will think oh, I have done that, it’s boring now, but on the flip side by the time they are 14 they could be alcohol dependent. That’s not a chance I’d be willing to take with my children’s welfare.

I would love hear your thoughts on this subject. Would you let your eight year old child drink alcohol?

22 thoughts on “Alcohol And Our Children

  1. Yes, I am familiar with the law and yes, it does make me feel uncomfortable. Five is way too young.

    I kind of sit in the middle for older kids. I don’t think they should have access to alcohol, but I can’t help feeling children should be aware of alcohol and aware of it being drunk responsibly….but there’s no justification for them to have alcohol before they are teenagers (a drop of communion wine being the only exception, if the family is church going). Even as teens, the French approach is best: Supply watered down wine.

  2. Our boys had an egg cup sized bucks fizz on Christmas day, to join in with a toast with all the grown-ups. To be honest they didn’t like the taste of it and only had a little sip! Tom and I felt as though it promoted participation in a nice family moment, rather than worrying too much about the contents of the tiny glasses. We all cheersed and then hugged and had a sip of our drinks. I don’t think it’s done any lasting damage – I’m not sure what kind of parent would liberally give their kids booze in any other context, though.

  3. Have to say, I fall down firmly on the other camp here.

    Your argument, while very real and personal to you (and no more or less “correct” than my own or anyone else’s) has a number of underlying assumptions which, in my opinion, undermine it. You say that if a child has alcohol in their life then by the time they reach 14 they could be alcohol dependent – that’s a hell of a leap! Me allowing my kids to have a spritzed glass of wine every now and then with Sunday dinner is a long way from turning them into alcoholics!

    I haven’t suffered from alcohol dependency myself or via any of my family members so have never seen its darkest outcomes, but in part I ascribe that to the freedom and ability to drink very moderate amounts of alcohol as a kid and experience it as I was forming my opinions growing up. I saw my family able to consume it relatively responsibly, which informed my own habits as I grew older. Those of my friends who never had this absolutely dived in headfirst as soon as they hit 18, and spent the better part of their late teens and early twenties in varying stages of drunk and hungover.

    I’m not advocating giving a five-year-old a bottle of brandy and letting them go at it. It’s about teaching responsibility and advice as they grow. For better or worse, alcohol is not only in existence but is also legal, so expecting them to either swear off it without ever trying it whilst living in the Western world, or to reach 18 and instantly drink responsibly is, in my opinion, a bit far-fetched.

    I also don’t believe many people don’t have a limit in terms of alcohol. Some people don’t, certainly, but most of us do, otherwise a single glass of wine would ALWAYS lead to blackouts. My parents taught me limits (albeit accidentally and without meaning to), and I’m teaching my kids limits. For them, alcohol is nothing scary nor exciting, which I hope will lessen the likelihood of them stealing a bottle of white lightning and hiding in a field as they drink it with friends until they vomit and pass out.

  4. Five is far too young and any more than a sip before 14 is ridiculous in my opinion. Even then I think half a glass with a meal at Christmas is the most a 14yo should have. I have no problem with a tiny sip but I worry more than that will damage a childs liver struggling to process it. I was given cans of Gold Label as a child to keep me quiet and whilst I’m not much of a drinker I could easily have gone the opposite way.

  5. Another great read! I personally think five is way to young to introduce anyone to alcohol! I can understand more as they become teenagers and we as parents have a duty to teach drink awareness. Some adults don’t fully understand the dangers of drink and the issues it causes, so how can we expect any child to understand them.

    Keep up the great work.

  6. Just coz alcohol can be served in the home to a five-year-old does not make it compulsory to do so!! Again, it’s a parental responsibility thing, I believe. There’s a world of a difference between giving a curious child a taste of beer to serving them up a glass of wine, diluted or otherwise. Judgment, peeps, judgment. Here endeth the lesson! #ThatFridayLinky

  7. My parents were not great drinkers, and I wasn’t really allowed any alcohol expect a glass of wine at the Christmas table at 13. I do think 5 years old is a little young, but becoming dependant on alcohol includes lots of factors, not just being introduced to it at an early age. I still don’t drink much now, and neither does my husband, but he grew up with an alcoholic father so his opinions are different.
    Oh, and my Mum always told the story of when my brother (now in his late 60s) was really ill as a 3 yr old and the Dr advised giving him a teaspoon of brandy 3 times a day. She claims it saved his life!

  8. While I do agree that 5 is an incredible age to say that this is legal, I do agree with some of the other comments. I probably first tasted alcohol in my teens, and went out drinking at 15-16. And never drank to excess because my parents were also quite responsible drinkers. However, I would say that the past 10 years I lived with a heavy drinker and also have had periods of drinking far too much. I would say that stress and work led to my habits rather than starting young. #ThatFridayLinky

  9. This is my first time to hear about that law. It is a strange law, that’s for sure. I wonder why they set “five” as the legal age to drink at home? When my kids grow up, I hope that they will be responsible drinkers. We’ll do all that we can to teach them about responsible drinking.

    #ThatFridayLinky

  10. I knew this already. I also knew when i was 15 that my Dad could legally buy me a drink in the Working Men’s Club we went to – something to do with him buying it and it being a private members club. Anyway, I remember he bought me a bottle of Budweiser on New Years Eve when I discovered this rule. Just the one mind.
    I don’t drink much at all theses days. In fact, for much of the year I could be t-total myself. I take a weekly medicine for my rheumatoid arthritis that is processed by the liver. It’s a strong poisen (no better work for it) so whilst there’s no rule to say I can’t have a drink (in moderation) my philosophy has been to abstain as my liver is working damned hard as it is with the pills.
    This Christmas I did have few beers and I was bought bottle of Jack Daniels. I’ve had a few and now I’m back on the wagon. I actually stopped taking my pills over Christmas as I had a virus my body was fighting so as these pills suppress the immune system I was off them.
    On Christmas day we made bucks fizz (more OJ than proseco if I’m honest) and we did let the girls have a small glass of it. But, 5 is way too young. But then many people simply don’t realise that the age limit is about being able to buy the alcohol – not consume it.

  11. Interesting post Nige. I totally agree that children shouldn’t be given alcohol before the age of 12. I do think that after that age, making alcohol demonised can make it seem more appealing to teenagers. We have allowed the odd glass of wine if our teenagers have wanted it. We watered it down when they were younger teens. To be honest, they don’t really enjoy the taste of wine or beer but they do drink occasionally when they are out (our daughter is 18 and our s0n almost 17). I think that by banning something, they will want to try something more although I definately wouldn’t given children under 12 alcohol. #thatfridaylinky

  12. I knew it wasn’t illegal at a young age, but didn’t realise quite how young!! 5 is a ridiculous age to say that it’s OK to have a drink in my opinion. I was allowed very tiny sips as an older child & don’t think it did me any harm, but I am surprised how liberal we are allowed to be when it comes to giving it to our kids… #ThatFridayLinky

  13. I think our awareness is so much greater than it was in our parents’ time. To be honest, I was more aware by the time I had my 13 year old than I was when I had my now 18 year old son. The more we know the more we can make positive choices for ourselves and give positive guidance to our children. My children have seen their grandparents drink regularly and seen us drink too both in and out of the house. They have no interest in it at all and I am thankful for that. All the points you make about negative effects and how it is a bit of a dangerous thing to give to our little ones are well made and true #ThatBinkyLinky – any prison officer I know says that alcohol is far more of a worry to society than drugs interestingly #ThatFridayLinky

  14. It is crazy that anyone would consider giving children as young as five any alcohol.
    My teen had a few drinks over Christmas. We were away and there was bucks fizz. 90% orange juice and fizzy wine and a few sips of wine which she wasn’t keen on. She’s 16. #ThatFridayLinky

  15. I wholeheartedly agree. In the U.S. It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to drink under any circumstances except for things like a sip of communion wine. Enough research has been done on the effects of alcohol on youth and the evidence is definitely on the side of not giving it to them.

  16. I never knew this Nige! Alcohol can have massive, damaging effects on a household and family life. Keeping the kids away from the drinks cabinet for another few years yet!

  17. I’m two years into recovery. I don’t have any alcohol in my house and don’t plan on it any time soon. My oldest doesn’t plan to drink due to what he saw with me.

    Even without my own drinking issues, I can’t see myself letting a 5-year-old drink alcohol in any situation.

    #thatfridaylinky

  18. I did know this law, although I’ve always wondered why 5. At Christmas me and my younger brother were allowed a drop of wine heavily topped up with lemonade so that we could join in with the toasting. My brother may have been about 8 when this started and I see no problem with that. If it was a glass of undiluted wine then it would be different. At 14 I was allowed one smirnoff ice on a friday night and I was never tempted to sneak off with friends and binge drink as alcohol wasn’t taboo. Interesting read #ThatFridayLinky

  19. Well, I’m staggered by this law AND the responses! I get it, kids are hardly gonna hooked on a toasting tipple etc. BUT, the bigger issue is that by encouraging children to be included in this tradition you are firmly associating celebration with alcohol.

    People are so defensive about alcohol consumption but ultimately, I know a LOT of adults who can’t dance without a drink, don’t want to approach an attractive person without having had a drink and say “it’s boring” if they have to be the designated driver on a night out. I think this is a shitty thing to role model to kids.

    You can toast with anything, as any non-drinkers in the room will know!

  20. I agree, I wouldn’t let my child drink alcohol. I live in the USA and our laws is 21 years old for alcohol consumption, no matter if they’re your own children in your own house or not. But still, If I lived in another country I wouldn’t let them drink even if the law says they can without repercussion. Alcohol can have very negative effects on people, especially if they drink too much – you never know what a drunk person is capable of doing. Now I do love my wine and I am a wine advocate and love trying different brands but I don’t like to get drunk because I hate the way it feels and the aftermath, of course. My own children do not show any signs of interest in alcohol but at the same time they are still very young and I wouldn’t even allow it when they are teens because they’re precious minds and development are just too important to be riddled with problems by alcohol consumption.

  21. Hey Nige, We have a DNA strand of alcoholics that run through the family veins on the Mrs.’ side, and we have been alerting the girls to the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, drugs from as long as they could understand. Good choices need to be made to keep this one at bay. Great post. #thatfridaylinky xo

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