At some point, our sweet, innocent children will find themselves in a position where alcohol will become available to them. If they are not fully equipped with the necessary information, they could make a really bad decision, with potentially dangerous consequences. I want my kids to be able to make responsible, informed choices.
In today's society we see so many examples of alcohol abuse: the scenes of binge drinking that feature on the news, the tales of booze fueled unprotected sex and violence on the Jeremy Kyle show and stories of wayward teenagers drinking cider under the slide in the local park. But demonizing drink is not the answer when we live in a society where alcohol is also widely accepted, positively advertised and easily available.
One thing I have always tried to avoid is making alcohol taboo. There is nothing more tantalizing to a teenager than the idea of breaking what they consider an unfair rule. However, there are things you need to tell them about the dangers of drink to educate them in alcohol awareness. It is naive to assume they will not try alcohol, so to help them develop a sensible and responsible attitude is vital.
I tell them about my own experiences with honesty....and I have quite a lot of horror stories to share! I remind them that there is no point going out somewhere nice if you are going to get so drunk you won't remember it. And there is nothing glamorous about waking up face down in a pool of your own vomit. You make bad decisions when you are drunk which can have far reaching consequences, so it is better to be in control of your actions. You can go out, have fun and enjoy yourself without the need to get excessively drunk. In fact you will have a better time as there will be no hang over to contend with next morning.
At Christmas the temptation to drink alcohol increases. My 10 year old often wants to try her dad's beer or her older sister's Malibu and coke. Although I don't totally forbid her from trying a tiny sip, I try to give her other options, reminding her that alcohol is for grown ups because her young body will not be able to tolerate it and it could make her feel unwell. Instead we make fun, kid friendly mocktails. As I am now mostly a non-drinker myself (one too many alcohol related horror stories of my own), it is fun to involve Kizzy as we mix fruit juices and lemonade adding chopped fruit and even decorating the glass with a parasol to make it feel extra special. It demonstrates to her that we don't need to drink alcohol to have fun and have a good time. I hope this lesson will stand her in good stead for the future. I want her to have the confidence to stand up for what she believes especially when faced with peer pressure away from home.
If any of my children do find themselves drinking, I want them to be able to talk to me about it. Thankfully my eldest children have had generally good attitudes towards alcohol. Yes, we have had the odd indiscretion that has lead to them having their heads down the toilet following a night out, but the fact they were able to tell us about it and confidently come back to the safety of home means we have been able to control a potentially difficult situation. Plus, we get to give them the "this is what alcohol does to you" talk in the morning! It's all a learning curve and every mistake is a life lesson!
I hope my younger children grow up with responsible attitudes to alcohol. I will continue to make it a subject that is discussed openly. Whenever the subject comes up on the news or in a TV show, I use it as a prompt to comment on how damaging alcohol abuse can be and just how ill it can make you. I hope I teach them by example and they understand that drinking in excess is not an acceptable thing to do at any age.
As part of its Kids and Alcohol campaign which launched in 2011, Drinkaware has been encouraging parents to arm themselves with the facts surrounding kids and alcohol, and to have an open and ongoing conversation with their children about the various issues. You can find out more about this at www.drinkaware.co.uk
There is a Twitter party taking place on Dec 4th from 8pm-9pm, hosted by @drinkaware and @tots100 using the hashtag #kidsandalcohol. It aims to promote some new research the charity has done into children and alcohol at Christmas, and how parents' drinking habits influence children, as well as the risks parents need to be aware of around this time of year. It's never too soon to start thinking about this subject.
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