Would you give your under-18 alcohol?

This post follows on from the one I wrote recently about children given alcohol to drink by their parents more likely to be heavy drinkers.

It might sound a little unlikely, but astonishingly, according to a new poll by charity Drinkaware, nearly a quarter of parents admitted to supplying their own children with up to nine units of alcohol in one sitting. That’s the equivalent of four cans of beer, a bottle of wine or a third of a bottle of vodka.

They do caveat it with the fact it’s only for ‘special occasions’ – for instance during holidays (60%), or for a party (48%) – and not an everyday occurrence. But still. Giving your under-18 child a level of booze that’d leave even most hardened adults a bit woozy – is that a good idea?

Yes you read that right 9 units of alcohol in one sitting to a person underage by 25% of parents – and we wonder why they turn into heavy drinkers?!  It continues:

“Giving teenagers a gradual introduction to alcohol as part of family life removes the appeal of the forbidden – but too much, too often can lead to habitual, rather than binge drinking, which in the longer term, can be very damaging,” she added.

“The most important thing parents can do is talk to their teens about drinking.”

Underage drinking damages chidlrens’ health, both now and in the future. As a starting point; the liver.  “You might think that only lifelong alcoholics get liver disease, but regularly drinking too much can increase a young person’s chances of damaging their liver,” says Drinkaware.  So much so, that earlier this year, a newspaper investigation revealed two 17-year-olds, an 18-year-old and two 19-year-olds had been treated for alcohol-related liver disease in UK hospitals over the last three years.

Then there’s the impact on underdeveloped brains. Drinking during this time can impact on memory, reactions and attention span, according to Drinkaware.  Paula Lavis, co-ordinator policy and campaigns at the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition said: “There is good scientific evidence to suggest that young people under 15 should not drink alcohol. And young people aged 15-17 should drink infrequently and no more than once a week.  “This is because young people are still developing both in terms of their body and their brain, and alcohol can have a negative impact on this.”

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware said: “The average amount some parents are providing is equivalent to a whole bottle of wine, and that is more than enough to get a 15-year-old drunk.  “No parent wants to think of their child out on their own being drunk and vulnerable, but effectively, that is what we could be facilitating by giving alcohol as a reward.  It is illegal for parents to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone under 18. Worse still, it normalises a culture of excessive drinking among young people.”

The thing that I find staggering is that we won’t go to our GP and talk about our alcohol consumption but when asked by the industry charity we are honest about how much we give our kids.  What is that about?  Is it bragging?  Is it mis-education?  I can only guess that those 25% of parents are heavy drinkers themselves because you would not think it acceptable to give someone an amount that you would not consider normal  to drink yourself.  I genuinely don’t understand – what are your thoughts?


10 thoughts on “Would you give your under-18 alcohol?

  1. My kids have been allowed a ‘drink’ at home. A drink, not several, not a few, one drink, if they’re here of an evening and they ask, I say yup OK, just go canny (<2 units, over 16). Neither so far appear to drink very much but it is a thought. Some 'parenting' books say to give them some wine/etc at dinner in the house to introduce them to it in a social/responsible sense but giving a child/young adult 9 units is crazy.

    Not sure if I did the right thing at home, but I'd never allow them to have the equv of a bottle of wine. Eek that's scary.

    1. Thanks Daisy for chiming in 🙂 Such a tricky one isn’t it and so hard to know what to do for the best.

  2. I think it shows how strong alcohol is and how badly our society deals with that. And no, knowing what I know now, I would not, if I had kids, feed them alcohol. But that is easy to say. Family of mine does not drink and she tried to tell her kids not to drink but they went all the way for a few years AND chose partners that are into heavy drinking. I actually changed it around, because I knew I had a dependency I ‘chose’ not to pursue the path of having children for a lot of reasons, one of them being that I when looking into the family tree I suspected that I have bad genes when it comes to alcohol. And another one being that I knew I was not ready to give up and found that unfair to baby Feelings. The feeling for having children was never big in me, so again, easy to say.

    It is sad all in all. No solutions here, when looking for solutions I would look in the direction of teaching parents on how to have talks about alcohol. My parents only instilled fear and craving, I am guessing that was not the goal they wanted to reach. 🙂 or 🙁

  3. Never allowed my kids to drink or even taste. Glad the legal age is 21 here. I know they would sneak and drink with friends but I insisted they wait until they were of legal age. Crazy, I never drank until I was 21 and I was still predisposed to alcoholism. I hope this gene thing skipped my children.

    1. Thanks Sharon for sharing too 🙂 It would seem nigh on impossible to get someone to wait here until they’re 21!

  4. So heartbreaking to know someone would willingly give their child so much booze 🙁 I don’t see how this could be “teaching them responsibility”! I used to get sips of my dad’s beer once in a while when I was a kid but that was it. xx

    1. It is Lori and I’ve seen it happen at family parties and felt like I couldn’t say anything as they were not my kids 🙁 xx

  5. I wouldn’t give my son alcohol, knowing what I know! I think it is really risky for everybody, even though many people don’t see it that way. I am definitely going to talk about it a lot with my son, and try to keep an open dialogue instead of scaring him into hiding things from me. I think it is normal to experiment but my son needs to know that it might be riskier for him than for others, regardless of whether that is fair or unfair. And then it comes down to letting go….but as much as I know it, I have to say I am glad it is a ways off for us! 🙂

    1. Hey Jen! 🙂 I’ll be putting it off for as long as possible with lots of conversations about it too! As you say we’ve got a bit more time first though xx

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