Before I decided to have this conversation with the kids a couple of years ago I needed to question whether or not I was going to be fully open and honest about my own personal experience of underage drinking. On the one hand I don't want my children to think I'm giving them a green light to go ahead and try alcohol because it's something I did. However on the other hand there's not much point in keeping tight-lipped, not approaching the subject at all and hoping for the best.
I remember when I was a teen, friends of mine would go through their parent's alcohol stash and pour a load of different drinks into a plastic bottle. A disgusting concoction of peach snapps, bacardi and kiwi flavour 20/20, nice. We would go to the park and drink said revolting drink and then spend the rest of the evening puking into a bush. Not fun. Knowing that this is the sort of thing teenagers get up to Mr T and I have always been very cautious when letting the kids go out with friends and have never allowed them to just go out roaming the streets or parks. Another thing we are always keen to do is introduce them to extra-curricular activities to give them some focus in their lives and something else to do other than hang out with friends all the time. Lewis and Holly have been to parties though and as a way of safe guarding them I will always make sure that there is going to be a responsible adult there 'on duty' to ensure that underage drinking doesn't take place. I'm not naive and I know what goes on but I hope that so far we have managed to evade letting the kids into a situation which could get out of control.
These days I very rarely drink at all, in fact I haven't had alcohol in about two years! Maybe I'll have a small tipple at Christmas but to be honest I could take it or leave it, and I do believe that parents should lead by example and not do as I say but not as I do. Although I appreciate that grown ups like to have a drink and that's fine as long as you do it responsibly. Unfortunately my sister and I grew up with an alcoholic for a Father who consequently died from liver disease aged 46 so although I saw drinking as 'the norm' when I was younger and wanted to try it for myself I think as an adult it has put me off drinking and risking damaging myself to the extent that my Dad did.
Looking back I do honestly wish that my parents had at some point sat me down and pointed out the dangers and risks of underage drinking and I feel that they should have known I must have been up to no good and surely must have realised that I had on several occasions come home drunk.
My teenage children are aged 15 and 14 now and I have already had chats with them about alcohol and the risks involved. They also know that my Dad died from alcohol related illness before they were even born so it's a topic we've always spoken about freely at home. Today I asked Holly about her thoughts on underage drinking and what she felt the risks are:
Where would young people get alcohol?
They might be able to get it from older brothers and sisters or even steal it from their parents.
Where might underage drinking take place?
Probably if there's a house party where there's no parents or if they went round their friends house in the holidays while their parents are at work.
What could happen to you if you got drunk?
I might get alcohol poisoning or really sick-that happened to a girl at school. Or I might do something bad if I was so out of my mind I didn't know what I was doing. There's a chance I could do something wrong or be pressured into doing something wrong.
What might the consequences be of drinking alcohol, in your school life for example?
I could get a bad name for myself. Also wouldn't be able to do homework if I was out all weekend.
We then looked at the Drinkaware website together and these are just a few facts that we found:
- Nearly 4000 children were hospitalised from drinking alcohol last year, some of them will have died.
- Children who start to drink by age 13 are more likely to have worse grades than their peers.
- Getting drunk just once is associated with an increased risk of teenage pregnancy
- Compared to non-drinkers, underage drinkers are more likely to smoke tobacco, cannabis and this may even lead to harder drug use.
- Evidence shows that underage drinking increases the risk of being involved in violence and serious vandalism.
- Young people who drink regularly are equally at risk as an alcoholic of damaging their livers without realising.
To find out more
Drinkaware will be hosting two webinars on 27th November and 10th December for parents to learn more about the risks associated with drinking underage and how to have effective conversations with your child about alcohol, and to ask any questions on issues surrounding underage drinking.
Webinar on 10/12/14 on how to address the issue of alcohol with your child and how to have effective conversations with them
*I am part of the Mumsnet Blogger Network, this is a sponsored post with Drinkaware to help raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.