As a Mother to an inquisitive 6 year old daughter, I am already scratching my head as I try to answer her endless questions about alcohol. Why does Mam enjoy prosecco and gin? Why does Mam go out to drink these drinks with my friends and dress up for the ‘occasion’? Why does Mam take photos of herself with these drinks but not with tea? Why doesn’t Dad drink? Why can’t she have a sip of these drinks when I always emphasise how important it is for her to try everything else I serve up on the table?!
It’s a tough one for most of us, so I was really happy when I received an email from Andrew Misell from Alcohol Concern Wales, informing me that he’s currently doing some important research on behalf of the Welsh Government, in order to find out how parents can help children to have a positive attitude towards alcohol, in order to try to avoid further problems in the future. Please read his following article and spend 5 minutes completing his questionnaire – there are links to both the Welsh and English version below.
We try to do our best for our kids, don’t we? But if there’s one emotion all parents know all about, it’s guilt. Guilt, or anxiety, or both. Are we doing the right thing? How do we even know what the right thing is?
As our children get older and more independent, these are exactly the sort of questions we start asking ourselves about alcohol. How young is too young? How much is too much?
If you’re out and about, the law’s quite clear. No one under the age of 18 can buy alcohol in a shop, pub or restaurant; and adults can’t buy it for them. When you’re at home, or in any other private house, it’s up to you – any child aged 5 or older can have an alcoholic drink. But would you actually want to give alcohol to someone that young?
The Chief Medical Officer – aka Wales’ Top Doc – says that no alcohol before 15 years of age is the best option. And even after that, youngsters are best off having very little alcohol, very infrequently. That’s all quite clear, then. But sometimes there’s a bit of gap between simple, official advice and our messy, complex lives.
For parents, there seem to be a few questions in the mix:
Does introducing children to alcohol sensibly, in the safety of the home, make them less likely to go off the rails later on?
Should we remove the mystery from alcohol by making it more normal?
Or do we risk making it too normal? Are we teaching young people to drink by showing them that the easiest way to unwind is to uncork a bottle?
By the time our children turn into teenagers, we may start to wonder how much we can control them anyway. If we don’t provide them with alcohol, are they just going to go off and get their own? At least if we buy it, we can keep them away from the strongest stuff…maybe.
It’s all a bit tricky. That’s why we’d like to ask Mam Cymru’s readers for some advice. After all, you’re the experts on your lives and your children. We’ve set out some straightforward questions about children and alcohol, in an anonymous online survey. It takes less than 5 minutes to do. You can give whatever answers you want, in confidence and without anyone trying to pick an argument with you. Be as honest as you like.
Here are the sorts of things we’d like to hear from you about:
- Is it best to let children try alcohol, or to tell them that it’s only for grown-ups?
- How confident do you feel about making decisions about alcohol and your children?
- Have you even disagreed with a family member or friend about whether to allow a young person alcohol?
There are no right or wrong answers. What you tell us will really help us to help other parents and to advise the Welsh Government. Ultimately, we hope that understanding these issues better will help more young people to have a healthy relationship with alcohol as they grow up.
Mam Cymru would like to thank Andrew for getting in touch with us. I urge you all to share your thoughts and also encourage your friends to take part. It’ll make it easier for all parents in the future and we all want that don’t we?
By Heulwen Davies, Mam Cymru.