Real Life

10 December 2019

Children, Christmas and alcohol – what’s the right thing to do?

Are we at risk as a society of teaching our kids that the meaning of Christmas is alcohol?

That is the question Balance is asking as the festive run-in delivers its annual mix of drink adverts and price wars in supermarkets, and with consumption set to rise.

With Christmas nearly upon us, North East parents may be wondering; what is the right thing to do in the home when it comes to alcohol and our children?

Christmas is a time for families, but in the last 20 years it does feel like alcohol has taken over Christmas in a way we didn’t see in the past.

Although it might seem like a harmless sip of a festive tipple, the evidence shows that children are more likely to become heavier drinkers as adults if they start drinking at a younger age. It could, in fact, be giving children a taste for booze.

Our plea to parents is not to believe the myth that it is best to provide alcohol to under 18s at home in order to teach them to drink ‘responsibly’, and not to to use Christmas occasions as a reason to introduce children to alcohol.

Many parents are unaware of the Chief Medical Officer’s guidance on drinking in childhood, but the advice is clear: it is healthiest and best for children not to drink before the age of 18 – and certainly never before they turn 15. That means the very best for our children is to be alcohol free as long as possible – and let’s remember the vast majority of children do not drink.

The other side of Christmas is our own behaviour when we drink and as parents, we can be positive role models. Nobody wants to give their children the message that Christmas is about drinking to excess, but we just need to be careful. Seeing parents drunk can make our children feel anxious, upset and unsafe, and the festive celebrations often mean children are more exposed to it.

Through our What’s the Harm campaign, Balance has used 2019 to communicate with parents about helping their children have the best start in life when it comes to alcohol. We’re seeing some positive change in attitudes among parents – six out of 10 parents who saw the campaign said it made them twice about allowing children to have alcohol in the future and over 1 in 10 (12%) actually stopped drinking in front of their children.

Alcohol increases the risk of accidents and injuries and can damage a child’s developing brain, liver, bones and hormones, as well as affecting their mood, mental and health and risking them falling behind at school. But that first drink gives a clear message – it gives a green light to alcohol which can then become something that is harder to put back in its box in the New Year.

It is positive that more parents are recognising the risks associated with alcohol and childhood. And more young people today are choosing not to drink and as parents we have an opportunity to encourage this.

Parents can visit www.whatstheharm.co.uk to find out the facts and the myths about children and alcohol

 By Colin Shevills – Director of Balance