Answering your child's questions about alcohol

Explore the sections to find answers to your child's questions about alcohol and about drinking underage.

FAQs on how to talk to your child about alcohol

Questions about the taste of alcohol

What does alcohol taste like?

You could say:

Wine tastes a bit like sour grape juice, cider like sour apple juice and beer can be bitter. Because taste buds change as you get older you might find alcohol doesn't taste very nice.

Questions about the risks of drinking alcohol

How much is safe to drink?

You could say:

The more you drink, the greater the chance of developing alcohol-related problems or long-term health conditions.

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers’ advise that it is safest not to drink any alcohol under the age of 15 and, for adults, to not drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

 

Is drinking dangerous? How much can I drink for my age?

You could say:

Yes, particularly at your age as your body is still developing. Drinking alcohol can make you less aware of danger, so you’re more likely to hurt yourself. In the long-term, drinking alcohol on a regular basis increases the risk of developing a range of illnesses such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, liver disease and damage to the brain and nervous system4

 

Can alcohol make you sad?

You could say:

Yes it can. It doesn’t just affect you physically; alcohol can also affect your mood and emotions. Sometimes people feel sad because they do things when they have been drinking that they wouldn’t normally do. Alcohol has also been linked to more serious mental health issues like depression.

Questions about being drunk

What does it feel like to be drunk?

You could say:

It can make you feel dizzy and silly. If you have too much you can be very silly – dangerously so. Sometimes you don’t care what you say or do. And afterwards you can feel sick and have a headache – a hangover.

 

Why can some people drink more alcohol than others with no effect?

You could say:

Everyone reacts differently to alcohol. Your height, weight and gender are just some of the factors that play a part in how alcohol affects you. Even what you've had to eat that day or how much sleep you've had recently can make a difference to how you feel when you drink.. People can build a tolerance which means that you might not notice the effects of alcohol as much, but this isn’t a good thing because the more you drink the greater risk to your health.

Questions about drinking underage

Can I take alcohol to a party if I’m under 18?

You could say:

No, because I don't want you drinking alcohol at your age, even if your friends drink. If you break our rules you can’t go. I know you might find it hard just to say no, so tell them you’ve got something on tomorrow and can’t drink tonight.

 

Can I try a sip of your drink?

You could say:

It’s not illegal for a parent or guardian to give their child alcohol at home if they are aged over five years old. However, if you don’t want to, you could say:  “No, not even a sip. You may feel grown up but your body is still developing, and alcohol can harm you at your age.”

You can find out more about the law on our guidance page

 

Can I try alcohol on a special occasion?

You could say:

No. I don’t want you drinking alcohol. You may feel grown up, but your body is still developing and alcohol can harm you at your age. Children and their parents and carers are advised that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. However, if children drink alcohol underage, it shouldn’t be until at least the age of 15 years.

 

My friends have all tried booze, so why can’t I?

You could say:

What other kids get up to is not my business – you are. Alcohol, even a small amount, would harm you now and I love you far too much to risk that.

 

It looks really fun, why are you trying to stop me enjoying myself?

You could say:

Yes, it can be fun when your body is fully grown, and even then it can lead to problems. Hangovers or having to remember the stupid things you did while drunk aren’t fun. Let’s think of other things you can do to unwind or have fun. But drinking isn’t one of them – it’s bad for you and I say no.

 

I’m not a child, I’m at secondary school now

You could say:

You’re right, you’re not a child. You’re a teenager, an adolescent. And that means that while you’re a lot more mature than a child your body is still developing. Show me how mature you are by researching some of the drawbacks of drinking at your age and then let’s talk some more about this.

 

When I’m older can I have some?

You could say:

Maybe. The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England advises that you shouldn’t drink at all before you’re 15. After that you might be able to have alcohol on special occasions – never more than once a week. And never more than the recommended alcohol unit guidelines.

But I think 15 is a limit, not a goal. The longer you leave it, the healthier you will be. Don’t forget it’s against the law for you to buy alcohol or for anyone to sell it to you or buy it for you until you are 18.

Questions about your own drinking

Why do you and other adults drink?

You could say:

Because I like the taste and because alcohol can relax you and make you feel good. But there are other ways of feeling good and relaxing – shall we talk about some of them?

 

When did you have your first drink?/Did you drink alcohol when you were my age?

You could say:

Probably before I should have. And I wish I hadn’t. If my parents had known then what I know now I’m sure they would have tried as hard as I’m trying to keep you safe. Just because I did it doesn’t mean you should copy me or that I don’t know better now.

 

Why won’t you answer me?!

You could say:

You’re right – I’m sorry. We should talk about alcohol. I’m avoiding it because I’m worried and embarrassed you might catch me out or I won’t have the answers. So let’s sit down and have a proper talk. We can both find out the facts we need, the important thing is to listen to each other.

Evidence

Evidence shows meaningful conversations about alcohol between parents and their children can help the child develop a sensible relationship with drink1 2.

Our research shows that 62% of young people would turn to their parents/guardians if they wanted more information about alcohol and that conversations about alcohol are most commonly prompted by questions from children3.

 

Learn more about why you should talk to your children about alcohol

Video on how to talk to your child about alcohol

Find out more about how to talk to your child about alcohol

References

(1) Highet 2005. Alcohol and cannabis: Young people talking about how parents respond to their use of these two drugs. Drugs: Education, Prevention, and Policy, 2005, Vol. 12, No. 2 : Pages 113-124 Downloaded from:

http://informahealthcare.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/09687630412331315125

(2) Hannah Carver , Lawrie Elliott , Catriona Kennedy , and Janet Hanley. Parent–child connectedness and communication in relation to alcohol, tobacco and drug use in adolescence: An integrative review of the literature. Drugs Educ Prev Pol, 2017; 24(2): 119–133 [Online] Available from:

(3) IPSOS Mori 2016, Drinkaware Monitor: Teenage drinking and the role of parents and guardians . Accessed 05/06/17  : https://drinkaware.co.uk/media/1764/drinkaware-monitor-report-2016.pdf

(4) Department of Health, Alcohol Guidelines Review – Report from the Guidelines development group to the UK Chief Medical Officers (2016). Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/489797/CMO_Alcohol_Report.pdf