Sunday, 22 August 2010

Is drinking around your kids ever ok?

In what feels like a sadly increasing trend, another mother has been sentenced for letting her child look after herself while she got drunk on holiday. 

The mother in question, Alicia Jenkins, deemed it safe and appropriate to let her 11 year old daughter roam the beaches of Salou, famed for the booze filled, violent excess of Saloufest, while she got trollied on cheap Sangria. Fortunately the girl is now in local authority care but this is, sadly, far from an isolated incident. Last month the The Mirror reported how young mother, Katie Down,  took her four-year-old son with her when she met friends for a few drinks in a beer garden on a sunny afternoon… a few hours later she was arrested, locked up – and her son taken into care.

I've shared my views on children in pubs before but I suspect this is less about having kids in the pub - I'm pretty sure no one has ever had their kids taken away for indulging in a J20 and chicken in a basket in a Wacky Warehouse - and more about just how appropriate is it to drink alcohol in front of children.In 2009 The Chief Medical Officer's official issued guidelines on alcohol for under 18s for the first time, stating that:
Children and their parents and carers are advised that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. However, if children drink alcohol, it should not be until at least the age of 15 years.
This seems somewhat at odds with the current legal position which makes it legal to give children alcohol in your own home from the age of 5, an age limit that does seem ridiculous. That said I do disagree that an alcohol free childhood is the best option - I believe in modelling the right behaviour to my child and I want her to grow up thinking of alcohol as a normal part of adult life. I will have a beer with her when we're out and am happy to drink in front of her when we're at home - a beer or a glass of wine, not 16 Vodka Tonics and half a bottle of Jaeger, it's about teaching children moderation. If my daughter never sees anyone drinking she'll grow up thinking that alcohol is something drunk in secret, making it a taboo that is more likely to encourage her to rebel by binge drinking as soon as she can.

Seeing your parents falling down drunk is wrong for any child - children need stability and they panic at any change of behaviour in their parents. It's worrying for a child to see their mum suffering from a cold so watching them stumbling about, incoherent and drunk should never happen but learning to enjoy alcohol responsibly should be part of any normal childhood.

*image from 


Rabidbarfly said...

Well said, kids need to know that drinking doesn't mean getting shitfaced for the sake of it.

Curmudgeon said...

It's one thing to take kids in the pub for a couple of drinks, but I don't see that it can ever be regarded as responsible parenting to take them on an extended drinking session.

And of course the more liberal climate for admitting children in pubs creates more temptation. This is obviously an extreme case, but it wouldn't have happened had the traditional restrictions on children been in place.

HardKnott Dave said...

There is a balance. A few drinks in a normal social situation is fine and even healthy as you suggest. However, one case of "six pints of lager and five vodka shots" does seem a little over the top.

But still, I worry that we are getting so controlling that a single episode can land a mother in so much trouble, and possibly a child into care.