Underage Drinking – Drinkaware

 Underage Drinking - DrinkawareMy own experience of drinking underage

I know too well that children drink underage. I was around eight years old when I had my first drink! It was around the same time that I had my first cigarette. My mom did not really drink as her dad had drunk too heavily. My dad, on the other hand, drank even during his lunch break at work, and then drove home (they were divorced might I add). Every other Saturday he would take me to the working men’s club and drink; eventually buying drinks for me underage. I would say I started drinking properly when I was around 12. By this time I was drinking Barcardi and coke (when I could be bothered with the Coke), Vodka, and eventually my drink of choice became cider and black. My family would buy me drinks on holiday, and other than that I’d drink on the streets with my friends, or around their houses. I was not allowed to go to nightclubs and so sneaked out to one when I was 15 – and it was true that most of my peers were actually there. I drank too much and put myself in dangerous situations. I heard recently that those who drink underage are more likely to have sex with viagra or when drunk, and get lower GCSE grades. This is not something that I want for my own children.

A role model for my children

My oldest son is 18 next month and doesn’t drink. I rarely drink now but during his early years he saw some sights. With me coming back to him with my hands all scratched where I had drunkenly fell in a bush. I would tell him to do as I say and not as I do – that drink was to blame. I am not sure if it was the bad example or the wise words but he hasn’t had alcohol – even when offered a small wine to let in the New Year. I genuinely believe that children learn by example.

Underage Drinking - DrinkawareChildren aged 10-13 years old

Now our second son, who is 11, has just moved on to secondary school. It is the age where he will meet new friends and together they may become curious about drinking. The Drinkaware underage drinking campaign core target group is for parents who have a child or children ages 10-13 year so it seems I would not be wrong in my belief that it is an age when curiosity may get the better of them. I think that it is really important to teach him about the dangerous He did not think it was important at his age as drinking has never occurred to him – that’s when I told him how young I was when I began drinking and how I did not want him to make the same mistakes. I told my son about the dangers of drinking underage, and the difference between spirits and beers, as well as unit and measures

Being drunk under 16 years old means you are 85% more likely to be involved in violence.

I can see how this is me. Lower self-esteem, doing things I am not proud of because of the drink, further lower self-esteem. Bet that made me an easy target for attracting a partner that I suffered Domestic Violence from at aged 16.

Compared to non-drinkers, underage drinkers are more likely to smoke tobacco, use cannabis or use other hard drugs

True. I have already said that I smoked and didn’t manage to give up until I was 24 years old. It seriously affected my health – especially my breathing.

Underage Drinking - Drinkaware

The Drinkaware website has plenty of examples of why children drink, the risks of underage drinking and how to talk to your children.After looking for myself I can see that when I tackled talking to my 11-year-old about drinking I handled it all wrong. I don’t think that the facts I used were wrong but I did corner him in his bedroom before bed! I think the site is extremely useful and full of lots of factual information. It is really for parents to access the material but think that it is straightforward enough for my 11-year-old to use should he not feel he wants to talk to his parents about it. The website also allows you to do a check on what risks you are taking with your drinking based on your consumption, age and sex. It told me what I already knew – that I am a binge drinker – and that is dangerous. The reasons I drink were spot on too, and so was the rational for them being poor excuses.

There are two Webinars being held to help parents learn to more about the risks of underage drinking, how to have effective conversations with children about alcohol, and to ask any issues surrounding underage drinking. To register your interest:

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15 thoughts on “Underage Drinking – Drinkaware”

  1. Very timely. Eldest has just reached the age where she is curious. She was recently invited to a friend’s 13th, where there was going to be drinking and smoking. She chose not to go. I’m going to check out the website, as I definitely need some pointers how to deal with this stage. Oh for the toddler stage again! Thanks for such an honest post too.

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  2. Going to be honest. I first remember having alcohol around 4 years old, I was first drunk at 7. Obviously drunk enough for an all day hangover is very wrong so young but I don’t object to the boys having tiny glasses of wine (often with added water or lemonade) around Christmas time, for example during a family meal. This is far from “the norm” though. As my grandad was a copper he used to say the worse drunks were 18/19 year olds bingeing as it was finally their choice. Like a shock to their bodies to go from teetotal to crawling upstairs to bed within a few weekends. That is way too sudden.

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  3. Wow, that is an eye opener! I knew what the risks from drink were, but I thought they would apply to older teenagers and adults, I’d never considered they would apply to children.
    As a teetotaller, I’m not sure what influence I will have on the kids. I don’t expect them to be teetotal like me, but I would like to think they would drink less than their peers because of their upbringing. What they could be exposed to quite frightens me!

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  4. A really interesting honest post J. It’s always really interested me in our attitude to underage drinking and drinking in general in the UK. In Denmark I would say their attitudes are pretty similar, and it was quite common to see kids out drinking in the towns, but here in Bavaria, there’s definitely more of a responsible attitude (apart from at Oktoberfest – but then it’s mostly tourists drunk!)… Made me think.

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  5. Annoys me to find so many people saying that drinking underage “in moderation” in family surroundings teaches you to be sensible with alcohol. As a journalist I’ve interviewed experts who tell me that studies show this has absolutely no truth in it whatsoever.
    My mother was virtually teetotal. She had the occasional Snowball at Christmas! Apart from one or two drinks at the age of 17 (when I tried alcohol but didn’t like the taste) I didn’t really drink until I was 18 and I’d left home.
    I’ve never had a problem with drinking in moderation. I’ve had my moments of drinking a bit too much, but I didn’t binge because I was deprived as a kid.
    I tend not to drink until after the kids have gone to bed. I won’t encourage them to try it until they’re at least very close to the legal age (although I’m realistic that they may be offered it by friends).
    I think it’s more important to talk to kids about alcohol and what it does – rather than giving it to them and encouraging them to develop a taste for it.

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  6. i didn’t drink until I was 18, but then made up for it unfortunately. I hope with all my heart my children choose not to drink or at at least much more sensible than I was.

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  7. Gosh, drinking is something I never considered talking about to my eldest as he’s 12.His dad has a drink problem, so I think he maybe dissuaded from drinking.I rarely drink, it used to be a weekly thing then it became twice weekly.I then knew I had to cut back, so I stopped the mid-week drink.Now, it’s possibly once a month.I know they do lots at school about drug and drink awareness, but I have never talked to him myself.

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  8. I remember my godmother coming home from work in tears one day because she had dealt with a child i Q&E who died of alcohol poisoning. Everyone at that family party thought it was cute and funny to give the 3 year old a little sip of their drink! Not sure they ended up laughing though! I don’t think people are really aware of just dangerous it can be to let a child drink.

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  9. I admire your honesty Joy, I really do. I didn’t have my first drink till I was 15 and I know some who did earlier and some who did much later. In my experience it’s those who started later who usually don’t appreciate just what an effect early age drinking can have on children.
    Wonderfully thought provoking post x

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