I think, if I remember correctly, that I was fourteen. I'll be honest, I can't really remember the first time, it seems that long ago.
Now, stop! Get your mind out of the gutter and entertain the possibility that I'm talking about something other than sex.
I'm talking about drinking alcohol for the first time.
In all honesty, I can't remember the first time I tasted it. It was actually possibly younger than fourteen, but only a teenie-weenie sip of champagne mixed with lemonade at Christmas time. I do however, remember the first time I was absolutely drunk as a skunk, and I remember it with shame and disbelief at my actions. What happens when you get a bunch of sixteen year old, public school girls together for a party in a house with no parental supervision and a drinks cabinet full to bursting? In my case? Vodka and orange happened. Luckily I can tell you that I stopped after the room started to tilt, but several other friends passed out, and the elder brother (who was supposed to be supervising) went to play music in the garage conversion.
At the grand old age of 34, and as a parent, I look back now with absolute horror that my school-friend's parents allowed that to happen. And from that parental perspective, I wonder why my parents never discussed the dangers of alcohol with me? I'm the youngest of four children; two boys, two girls, in that order. By the time it came to me, there should have been enough lessons learnt to ensure I never touched the stuff, surely? But then on the other hand, why would my poor parents suspect that their innocent, well-behaved daughter would do something like that?
This is where it makes me realise that talking to your children, setting a good example of the odd tipple and moderation, without being a hypocrite is essential. Should you drink in front of your children so that it's not such a huge thing? Or should you hide it away, like my parents did?
More and more children are drinking at a younger age, it is not something that we can afford to ignore. With the average age a British teen has their first unsupervised alcoholic drink being 13 years and 8 months, it is not going away. It's been identified that the earlier a child is exposed to alcohol in the home, the more likely they are to drink to risky levels when they are older so that debunks my naive theory that witnessing it at home makes it more acceptable to the child. As the single biggest influence on children’s drinking habits and attitudes to alcohol isn’t marketing or peer pressure – it’s what children observe in the home, I suspect that if my parents had at least discussed it with me, then my first contact with the demon alcohol would have turned out very different.
Watch and work through this interactive video, it's really interesting and has made me think about it.
I luckily came out of the video with a daughter who accepted she could try it when she was older.
What was your outcome?
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