How Old Were You?

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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  1. says

    I can't get the vid to work but interesting post. I think it depends what they're actually witnessing. If Mum and/or Dad are necking lager and alchopops most nights and getting leathered then yes – probably detremental. But the french (in general) expose their kids to drinking wine socially at a very young age and they don't have anything like as much of a problem. I work with 11-16 year olds and the stories some of the girls tell me they've been up to is truely terrifying!

    • TheBoyAndMe says

      It's interesting isn't it? I'd assumed that seeing it drunk in moderation and sensibly would be a good thing; I know not seeing it drunk at all in our house meant that I had no idea what happened.

      The video is a rollover, hover the mouse over and see if it pops up?

  2. Him Up North says

    I tweeted last week that unless in a party or social situation, I don't drink in front of my kids, and I wondered if I was unusual in that respect (as opposed to unusual generally!). They know mum and dad drink, but they don't see it happen and they've never seen us drunk.
    I don't entirely agree with the anecdotal evidence that continental drinking breeds sensible drinkers (or at least that it can be the same in Britain). There are lots of socio-economic factors at work and I know many people who thought they were being canny allowing wine with meals, but still ended up with kids puking WKD back on a Friday night.

  3. TheBoyAndMe says

    I don't drink in front of The Boy, again unless in a social situation e.g. big family dinner with the outlaws, and even then usually not. I suspect with my upbringing, the bouts that I had as a teenager with booze were more to do a lack of awareness than whether mum or dad had drunk at home in front of us. They didn't tend to because it was an expense that couldn't be spared, however it was also never discussed (but possibly should have been as my nan was an alcoholic).

    Personally, discussion and explanation is probably going to be the way I go in the future.

  4. says

    I have always been tee total, but my ex verged on being an alcoholic, older 2 girls were drinkers ( 2nd one imo drinks way too much on a regular basis especially by herself in her own home), other drinks rarely. 2 boys never really drunk all that much and youngest is opposed to it as she saw what it did to her birth mum and stepdads relationship.
    I was happy for mine to drink moderately at family gatherings to try and give them a healthy respect towards alcohol and we did discuss the dangers. as we discussed safe sex and family planning as well.

  5. says

    I always thought if a child saw their parents drinking it as a normal thing it would take the taboo factor away and they'd be less at risk of becoming an alike. (likewise they'd be more likely to go off the rails if they got their hands on it for the first time). Interesting stats there!

  6. Elaine Kidd says

    I hardly ever drink, yet my parents offered me sips of wine when I was 5, I hated it. My parents drank socially but never too much, they told me it was ok to have a glass or 2 but never have any if driving. Too many parents make drinking a forbidden thing or set a bad example themselves. like everything in life there has to be a balance.

  7. says

    I think my first alcoholic drink was 14 too. Just a small port and lemonade at Christmas, the only time my parents ever had a drink!

    Is it seeing the parents drinking or peer pressure that gets the kids onto alcohol?

  8. Hannah says

    I was got drunk by my alleged friends at a party when I was 16. God only knows what was in every drink I was given. They apparently thought it was hilarious when I was put over the shoulder of one of the "responsible adults" in the house and carried upstairs to bed.

    Never went there again, and I'm making sure my kids won't go there either.

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