How much is too much for under 18s to drink?
The UK chief medical officers recommend that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
Get further details on the laws around underage drinking broken down by country
There’s lots of debate about whether it’s OK to let children have a small amount of alcohol to try – some people call this the continental approach. But there’s no scientific evidence to prove this gives children a responsible attitude to drinking in later life3.
It may be tempting to offer your child a sip of alcohol on special occasions so they don’t feel left out. This could send mixed messages about whether they are or aren’t allowed to drink.
Of course, children are naturally curious, so they’ll probably ask you questions if they see you drinking and want to try some. Rather than offering them a sip, use this as a chance to talk to them openly and honestly about the facts.
You might think that allowing your child to try alcohol will demystify any uncertainties they may have. Instead, as with issues like smoking and drugs, it’s better to let them know they can ask you anything, at any time, about alcohol. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and suggest you find out together.
If you’ve already given your child a drink, it’s best to be honest and explain that if they carry on drinking it could harm them. Reassure them that if they stop, any effects drinking has already on their body are likely to be reversible, but if you’re worried it’s best to talk to your GP.
How and why to talk to your child about alcohol