Should You Drink Alcohol In Front Of Your Kids?

Should You Drink Alcohol In Front Of Your Kids?

At the end of a long day of working and parenting, you probably look forward to enjoying a drink. You can justify it. It’s been well earned. But should you drink alcohol in front of your kids?

Most adults tend to underestimate how much they drink and how much of an impact their drinking has on their children, whether they are very young or teenagers.

According to a new report, moderate parental drinking can have a negative impact on family life.

Should You Drink Alcohol In Front Of Your Kids?

The report, entitled Like Sugar For Adults, investigated how non-dependent drinking affected children.

Although there is already plenty of evidence linking parental alcohol addiction to negative outcomes for children, there is limited research looking at the impact non-dependent drinking has on children.

The study surveyed 1,000 parents about their alcohol consumption. Through surveys and focus groups, researchers determined what affect their drinking was having on the children.

Almost a third of the adults reported being having been drunk in front of their children. Half said they had been tipsy in front of their children.

Many of the parents surveyed mistakenly assumed their children didn't notice their drinking. Researchers concluded the widespread culture of normalised parental alcohol consumption has led some parents to underestimate the impact their drinking has on family life.

These results might worry some of us.

Effects On Children

Many children reported feeling anxious when their parents consumed alcohol. Take a quick glance at parenting blogs, or online news, and you’ll see plenty of references to parents ‘needing wine’ after a hellish day with the kids. This type of comment has become almost ingrained in the way we talk about motherhood.

Children who had seen their parents drunk or tipsy were more likely to report feeling anxious or worried about their parents’ drinking. They were also more likely to have suffered negative consequences, such as an increased number of arguments with their parents, unpredictable parental behaviour, and disrupted bedtime routines. Children who had seen their parents drunk or tipsy were less likely to view them as positive role models.

In one focus group for children aged 11-13, participants were asked why their parents drank. Their responses included:

  • “It’s their happy place”
  • “Alcohol is like sugar for adults, I guess”
  • “To solve their problems”

Researchers advised parents to think about how they discussed alcohol within the family.

Parents who drink were often found to glamourise alcohol when they discussed it with their children. This can influence a child’s views on alcohol consumption. The study stated:

“Parents who combine warm, two-way conversations and consistent, clear, enforced rules and high supervision, seem best placed to develop secure emotional bonds with their children in a way which could be protective against problematic alcohol use. Permissive messages and lenient consequences related to alcohol use are associated with higher levels of childhood drinking”.

Almost one in five children said they had felt embarrassed by their parents’ drinking. This figure was higher in families where the parents had been drunk in front of their kids. About 15% of the children surveyed had asked their parents to drink less alcohol.

The report makes for uncomfortable reading, but it might influence the choices some parents make about consuming alcohol.

Drinking alcohol is so ingrained in our culture, many parents might never have stopped to consider the impact their drinking is having on their kids.

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Fiona Peacock CONTRIBUTOR

Fiona Peacock is a writer, researcher and lover of all things to do with pregnancy, birth and motherhood (apart from the lack of sleep). She is a home birth advocate, passionate about gentle parenting and is also really tired.


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