What do other parents do?
Carrie Longton, co-founder of Mumsnet and member of the Drinkaware Mumtank panel talks about the importance of building good relationships with the parents of your children's friends so you can all be sure that your children aren't in danger of having bad experiences with alcohol.
Knowing what is the right thing to do as a parent isn't always easy. You make decisions on a daily basis that can have an effect on your child’s life, but often the only way to really work out the best approach is through experience. It was from this realisation that Mumsnet was born. We set up the website back in 2000 because we knew that there had to be a way to allow parents to share their knowledge and experiences (both good and bad!), ask questions, and engage with other parents about the issues which really matter to them.
The same applies to children and alcohol. I know from Mumsnetters that there is a real desire to understand the issues, to get advice about how and when to broach the subject, and to talk about the issue with other parents.
How to approach the subject of alcohol
As a topic, how to approach alcohol with your kids often seems to come to the fore – should parents let their children try an alcoholic drink so that they don’t feel left out? Or should they stick to the rules that they’ve set out and stuck to during the rest of the year? Then of course there is our concern as parents about our kids’ exposure to alcohol when they are unsupervised or under the supervision of the parents of their friends.
Build relationships with other parents
One of the best ways to address the issue of kids and alcohol is to build relationships with the parents of your children’s friends. This provides an immediate network of support, information and advice and a forum to discuss the issues. More importantly, it allows parents to develop a set of ground rules as a group – ensuring your child and their friends are receiving consistent messages about what’s okay and what’s not when it comes to alcohol. I’m not saying this will always be easy.
We know from Mumsnet that there are a variety of views as to when parents allow alcohol and how they feel about it and that’s why it’s vital that all parents have the most up to date facts and research to allow them to make their judgements.
I’d also encourage parents of friendship groups, where possible, to agree on what they will do when it comes to alcohol out of the home – house parties, for example. Will alcohol be allowed? Will there be enough soft drinks? How will these rules be enforced?
Speaking to teachers at your child’s school about the conversations you are having as a group of parents might also be a good idea, ensuring that the issue of alcohol is being discussed in the classroom or playground as well as at home.
Children might be in a rush to grow up but as parents our role is to help them to grow into responsible individuals who can make good decisions. By building a network, sharing anxieties as well as advice, agreeing boundaries and offering mutual support, parents can navigate the thorny issue together and feel confident that their children are getting the right messages about alcohol from all sides.
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Page updated: May 2013
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