Do You Know When To Stop?

I had in mind a completely different post this morning but then I saw this headline:

Third of children ‘scared’ by adult drinking

According to a survey carried out by Childwise for BBC’s Newsround programme out of 1,234 children aged 10 to 14 who were interviewed, half had seen their parents drunk. Half said they weren’t bothered about it, 16% said it made adults aggressive and 30% said they were scared. The article goes on to point out that the real significance in these figures is that many children weren’t bothered, that they saw being drunk as ‘normal’ that getting drunk was part of a ‘good night out’. You can read the report here.

As the daughter of an alcoholic whose relationship with her father has been damaged beyond repair. I obviously find these figures disturbing but they also made me stop and think about  my own drinking.

I do drink in front of my children, they see me with a glass of wine in hand with my dinner and they see  me drinking with friends at social occasions. I can honestly say that they have never seen me drunk but that they have seen me groggy in the morning on the odd occasion (though I suspect they put it down to my usual state of exhaustion as a direct result of mothering the four of them!).

I am not a violent, aggressive drunk. If I do have one too many I get giggly and over affectionate. My husband takes to stroking my legs if he’s had more than he should and chooses music the rest of us would probably not have chosen to listen to.

Drink seems to magnify elements of your personality. If you are an angry aggressive person and you get drunk, it can be very scary for children and adults around you. If you are melodramatic, over affectionate or maudlin it can be very embarrassing. A drunk adult is excruciating from a teenager’s point of view (think Dad dancing, Mum weeping or flirting) and confusing for a child.

What concerns me most about this report is that people increasingly seem to see alcohol as essential for a good night out, that children are seeing drunkenness as normal adult behaviour. Of course, this is not new as can be seen in the pages of history books but that doesn’t make it right.

It is important to me that my children feel safe and secure. That they know the boundaries and that the person in charge is consistent and reliable. I know from experience how damaging and confusing it can be if the boundaries of the adult world are blurred by alcohol and how disturbing it is when adults act irresponsibly and unreliably.

My questions to you are these:

  • Is drinking in front of children acceptable?
  • Is there such a thing as responsible drinking?
  • Have you been drunk in front of your children and, if so, was that OK?

photo by Flickr user jawcey


Filed under Parenting, Relationships

27 responses to “Do You Know When To Stop?

  1. I don’t drink-yeah I know prude lol-but it’s because I don’t enjoy it at all.

    I think one of the things that stuck out most for me when I first started making British friends online about 4 years ago was the whole culture of pubs and drinking at all occaasions and even for no occasions. Always the talk of pints and stuff.

    My husband does a lot of work in England and when he first started he was quite taken aback at people from trading floors going out to business lunches and drinking enough pints that would have floored him and then going back to work.

    So is the amount of drinking I perceive true or is just my perception.

    • Not prude at all! I have never been to a business lunch and don’t do the pub thing at all so I don’t know if his perception is true, although I suspect it is. Drinking alcohol does seem to be large part of our culture, my main concern is that children be shown responsible drinking and caring parenting with the adults being in control. Thanks, as always, for your comment Susie. xx

  2. Paula

    Good post Chris. I absolutely agree with you and feel really strongly about this. Children are scared of change and alcohol undoubtedly produces a change in all of us…even, as you describe, if it’s to turn you into an over-affectionate hugger children can still find this unnerving. Personally I choose never to drink to excess in front of my children, and I encourage my OH to do the same – I just don’t think it’s fair. So much more to say on this subject but I’ll leave it there I think. xx

  3. I don’t drink much anyway but definitely not when the little one is up. This is more a practical thing – what if something is wrong and I need to drive? (I am way too sensible I’m afraid). I would definitely not get drunk in front of her until she was in her mid teens if at all.

  4. I rarely drink, max of about twice a year. I just don’t have the interest in it. I would have that drink in front of my children alright but never get drunk in front of them. I don’t really do ‘drunk’ anyway. After a few drinks I tend to get like you do, giggly and overly affectionate. Those stats you posted scare me! Jen

  5. Excellent post. To answer your questions:
    – Is drinking in front of children acceptable?
    *Yes, I think it is, but very much only in moderation. I think it is healthy for children to see people dealing sensibly with alcohol. I would hate for the only impression they have of drinking to be that you have to be either tee-total or completely smashed. My children already know that it is not good to drink too much as it “makes you fuzzy”.

    -Is there such a thing as responsible drinking?
    * Yes – see above.

    -Have you been drunk in front of your children and, if so, was that OK?
    * No. I have never really drunk huge amounts, but am probably more conscious of not drinking too much with children. It’s just not worth it – I hate the thought of anything happening to them and me being so blotto that I wouldn’t be able to function. Plus all the fun disappears if you know you are going to have to be up at 6am, no matter what!

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment Julie. I think you are right, alcohol is prevalent in society and it is up to us to provide good examples for our children either as people who are happy not drinking or as people who drink sensibly and moderately.

  6. I agree with Julie. I think it’s important for children to see adults drinking responsibly. I do drink occasionally in front of my children but it’s never masses. I don’t drink a lot anyway and most of my drinking is done after they go to bed as they are normally in bed for 7pm, 8pm at weekends. My parents drank in front of me and I only remember my Dad being merry in front of me a few times. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my mother drunk. I think you can’t protect them from everything so you may as well control the way they are exposed to this. I am wary at family events not to let them see excessive drinking or the results of it – not an issue for now but I do have relatives that do drink more than they should so I need to keep a weather eye on it as they get older, and inevitably stay up later.

    I think drinking responsibly is an important lesson to learn in life. We probably all do the drinking to excess thing at least once but I think it’s the frequency with which you do that marks you out as responsible or not.

    I have never been drunk in front of my children and don’t intend to be. I don’t do drunk anyway and neither does OH. The last time I was drunk was a very very long time ago.

  7. I’m with Julie on this, I do drink in front of my children to moderation, I think it is positive for them to see things like drink handled in an adult manner. I would not get drunk with them around since having them I have no desire to drink more than a couple of glasses of wine and as my husband only has alcohol at weekends and then only a glass of wine or one beer it may not ever come up in our house.

    I do drink a few more on a girls night out but again, as Julie says the thought of being up at 6am (or earlier) slows me down…

  8. Good post! Neither my husband or I drink any more, for several reasons. However, I think it is acceptable to drink in moderation in front of your children.

    I think it helps to develop a healthy attitude towards alcohol if they can see that you don’t have to get blind drunk every time you have a drink. I think the issue does come if there is a problem with your child and you are not in fit state to deal with it or drive them to hospital.

    • I think that last point is a really important one. One of my children is asthmatic and I have had to do that night time dash to hospital on more than one occasion, I would’ve been stuck if I had had a drink.

  9. Excellent post Chris. For some reason I have always been frightened of drunkeness. I get embarrased when people change. I’m not able to drink too much & often suffer with a bad head the next day so I don’t go in for the drunken evenings. I am very concerned about the rise in achol abuse especially by the younger elements of society & fear for the damage they are doing to themselves & society.

    • Drunken behaviour can be excruciatingly embarrassing, especially if you haven’t had a drink. I remember wanting the floor to open up when I was a teenager. Thanks for commenting lovely. x

  10. I agree with Julie too. Ithink it is healthy to drink in front of children, that it teaches them that drinking alcohol is a social activity, something you do at and around eating, and not something to do in secret and in excess. But I also think that if you are at a dinner party with friends and their children and the wine flows a bit more freely than it would of a normal day it doesn’t matter much if your children hear you laugh louder than you normally would. I don’t suppose that’s what you mean by getting drunk though. If you mean incoherent, falling over drunk, then no, not in front of the children! But they have seen me nurse a hangover (and been very sweet about it).

  11. Hi, you’re very brave to raise this tricky subject, and I found it difficult to read this post at all. My ex used to get drunk in front of the children, but I would not even drink in front of the little ones and only have a glass of wine after they have gone to bed. Only my teenager would see this, and she has never seen me drunk. I think children are very scared when they see the extreme behaviour of adults who are drunk, no matter what they actually say in surveys.

    • Thank you so much for commenting and for reading even though you found it tricky. I did struggle writing it, it is not an easy subject and it is one which some people can deal with flippantly. It can be very scary for children and I think it is a good thing that this survey has been carried out and has highlighted this issue.

  12. I drink in front of my DD, always have, how else will they learn to drink sensibly😉

    I drank while breast feeding too.

    I’m not a big drinker, one or two beers and I’m done. Sometime a bottle of Cava or Champagne comes my way and I drink enough to get giggly and wobbly. DD knows that alcohol is a poison that affects the brain (I told her!) so she keeps and eye on me but on the whole she finds it funny.

    As I have Cahrcot-Marie-Tooth disease (AKA hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy) I’m wobbly anyway, so she’s pretty used to it!

  13. I’m still scared of what alcohol does to people if I’m honest. My Dad was an alcoholic yet I only saw him drunk twice. Both times I remember vividly. When my father in law has one two many I can feel myself start to tighten up, make excuses and go to bed, it’s a deep deep feeling. As a result I guess I don’t drink much, rarely get drunk and am very protective of my girls around drink. It can be very scary to see someone change in front of your eyes.

    • It is the way people metamorphose in front of you, whether they turn ugly or smother you with kisses, that is scary and disorientating. I hope this didn’t bring up too many bad memories for you. Thank you very much for commenting. xxx

  14. My mother is an alcoholic and all the memories I have of her from my childhood she is armed with whiskey. It resulted in me leaving home in the middle of the night at 17.

    I have my issues with alcohol, if I do drink I can’t stop but because of that and my childhood I have chosen not to drink. I have one very occasionally on special occasions, but I don’t want to be out of control.

    When I have children I wont let anyone drink in front of them and my mother will be kept at arms length. Alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug and should be treated as such.

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