Should parents give their children alcohol?

Children drinking alcohol

In my personal opinion any child under the age of 18 shouldn’t have alcohol. The recent Sky News article about this topic stated:

Under UK law, it is legal for children aged five to 16 to drink alcohol at home. 

This is a highly debatable topic and with Christmas fast approaching they’ll be a number of children that will engage in having a festive drink. . Clearly parents agree with the law and giving their children alcohol. In the research done by UCL Institute of Education and Pennsylvania State University in the US, they found that:

17% of parents in the UK have allowed their children to drink by the time they were 14

The idea of allowing children to drink at a young age in order to teach them more about alcohol is ludicrous. We don’t allow children to drive cars around the streets, take drugs, operate machinery or hundreds of other things just so they know what it’s like and can prepare for it. Not to mention their brain hasn’t fully developed at 14 years old. Surely there are better ways to educate a child than practical application of experiencing the said thing, in this case alcohol? Parents may think they’re controlling it in their own home, but what children get up to outside of the home isn’t always known.  Alcohol makes anyone more susceptible and leads to all sorts of issues if not kept under control. 

When a parent purchases alcohol for their child it sends a very different message than suspecting their child drinks with their peers. The former says I’m condoning you drinking alcohol and support you in doing that, the second gives no permission. Education is key here, just like anything else a parent teaches a child as they’re growing up.  Children know adults get to do things they can’t, this is just another example of that. If parents educate their children about the safe use of alcohol, why we drink and areas of concern that is more important than allowing them to sample it.  The issue here is that a lot of adults have little education about alcohol. 

Lastly, I want to reiterate what I’ve written about before when it comes to the reason we drink. There are a few reasons for this, some more damaging than others. I’ll share these with you but first I want to say that I do drink alcohol. I drink responsibly and with self-control. I’m going to hazard a guess that children under 18 may not have mastered the art of self-control. This also gets more complicated if they live in an environment which is dysfunctional without healthy boundaries and support being available to them. Each environment is different and with complex circumstances at times. Ultimately, I don’t think much good can come from allowing a child to drink alcohol before the age of 18. I appreciate most parents are only allowing one or two drinks, but it’s the message it sends which is important. 

Here are the main reasons people drink alcohol (not children specifically), it can easily shift from one to the other.

  • To feel a certain way e.g. more confident, outgoing
  • To numb a feeling e.g. hurt, sadness
  • They enjoy the flavour

In conclusion, if alcohol was easy to control we wouldn’t have the issues we now have in the UK. It may seem an over-reaction but I’ve seen it first hand and teaching a child that it’s OK to drink before they’re an adult, capable of accepting the responsibilities that come with it is dangerous. I understand each child is different and some more grown up than others, physically their body isn’t ready and to be honest, what’s the rush? If you’re a parent and keen for your child to understand about alcohol, which I hope is the reason you’re allowing them to drink it, take them to local alcohol charities that can offer specialist information. Look at the  Talk to Frank website, Drinkaware or Alcohol Concern

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