Understanding Alcohol: A Parent’s Guide to Age-Appropriate Conversations

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England child alcohol use tops global chart in a Report  by WHO

A third of 11-year-olds and more than half of 13-year-olds in England have drunk alcohol – putting it top out of 44 countries examined in a report by global health experts.

Girls were found to be more likely than boys to be drinking and getting drunk aged 15 in England, Wales and Scotland.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report said alcohol, which can damage children’s brains, has been normalised.

Talking to children about alcohol is an important aspect of parenting that requires sensitivity, honesty, and age-appropriate information.

Here are some guidelines for parents on how to approach this topic at various ages:

Preschoolers (3-5 years old):

Keep it simple:

Explain that alcohol is a grown-up drink that children shouldn’t have.
Use concrete examples:

Compare alcohol to other things they’re familiar with, like medicine that’s only for adults.

Emphasise safety:

Teach them that it’s dangerous for children to drink alcohol.

Early Primary (6-8 years old):

Expand on the basics:

Discuss why alcohol is only for adults, focusing on its effects on the body and brain.
Discuss peer pressure:

Talk about how some people might pressure others to drink alcohol and how to say no.

Share family values:

Explain your family’s beliefs and values about alcohol consumption.

Late Primary (9-11 years old):

Discuss consequences:

Talk about the short-term and long-term consequences of alcohol use, including health, legal, and social implications.

Encourage open communication:

Let them know they can come to you with any questions or concerns about alcohol.


Practice scenarios where they might be offered alcohol and help them develop assertive responses.

Early Adolescence (12-14 years old):

Be honest and factual:

Provide accurate information about alcohol, including its effects on the brain, development, and behaviour.

Discuss peer pressure and decision-making:

Talk about the importance of making smart choices, resisting peer pressure, and understanding the risks associated with alcohol use.

Set clear expectations:

Establish rules and consequences regarding underage drinking, emphasizing safety and responsibility.

Late Adolescence (15-18 years old):

Encourage responsible decision-making:

Discuss the legal drinking age, responsible alcohol consumption, and the importance of moderation.

Talk about alcohol addiction:

Explain the risks of alcohol dependency and the importance of recognizing signs of alcohol abuse.
Be a role model: Model responsible alcohol behavior and discuss your own experiences and decisions regarding alcohol.

General Tips:

Keep communication open:

Encourage your children to ask questions and share their feelings about alcohol without judgment.

Use teachable moments:

Use real-life situations, media portrayals, or stories in the news as opportunities to discuss alcohol-related issues.

Monitor their environment:

Be aware of their social activities and peer influences, and discuss potential situations where alcohol might be present.

The Urban Myth

It’s an urban myth that French families regularly drink wine with their children is a misconception that has been perpetuated over time. While wine is a part of French culture and is often consumed during meals, it doesn’t mean that parents encourage or allow their children to drink alcohol.

In reality, the French approach to alcohol consumption is often more about moderation, education, and incorporating it into social settings where it is normalised and demystified. Parents in France typically introduce alcohol to their children gradually and in controlled environments, emphasising responsible drinking habits and the cultural significance of wine and other alcoholic beverages.

It’s essential to differentiate between cultural practices and promoting underage drinking. In France, as in many other countries, there are laws and social norms that discourage the consumption of alcohol by minors. Parents are generally advised to educate their children about the risks associated with alcohol and to model responsible drinking behaviour.

So, while wine may be present at French family meals, it doesn’t mean that children are encouraged to partake. It’s more about teaching them to appreciate alcohol responsibly and understand its role in French culture.

Remember, the goal is to equip your children with the knowledge and skills they need to make informed and responsible decisions about alcohol as they grow older. Open and ongoing communication is key to fostering a healthy and trusting relationship with your children on this important topic.

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