Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about alcohol as part of a new underage drinking campaign.
While levels of underage drinking in the UK continue to decline, 71% of young people aged 11 to 15 say their parents or carers are their main source of alcohol.
Now Diageo – creator of the Gordon’s, Guinness and Johnnie Walker brands – aims to inform and remind parents that an alcohol-free childhood is the safest option for their children with the help of online influencers.
Jamie Beaglehole, who has won awards for his blog Daddy & Dad, which tracks his adoption journey with husband Tom Muirhead, said getting involved was “important and obvious”.
“Tom and I experienced underage drinking in our older teens, so the message of the campaign resonated with us,” Jamie, 41, told Metro.co.uk.
“But it wasn’t something I really took the time to think about or reflect on in the context of my own family life.
“As fathers of teenage sons, we wanted to get involved in a campaign that focused on parent-child relationships and how we as adults can have a positive impact on our children by avoiding underage drinking.”
He added that “it was really interesting to learn about the role that parents and carers can play in providing alcoholic beverages to children.”
A survey conducted last year by Community Alcohol Partnerships on parents’ attitudes towards the supply of alcohol found that 53% of parents allowed or would allow their children to drink alcohol. This is against official health guidelines.
The organization also found that two-thirds of parents would like to have a source of advice on how to protect their children from the dangers of underage drinking, while only 13% believe they already have one.
Jamie, father of two to Lyall and Rich, said he had learned that “alcohol adversely affects children’s mental and physical development – along with all the other dangers of drinking.”
“I think it’s really important that we follow doctors advice on this – England’s chief medical officer has long been clear that the best option for children is to stay off alcohol for both their brains and the development and health of their bodies.” added.
Jamie, who lives near Sheffield in South Yorkshire, said the news forced him and his partner to do “a bit of self-reflection”.
“Our sons are smart, and we underestimate how much they derive from our own behavior,” he explained.
“By using a silly example, we see our children imitating our jokes, the way we talk, and other daily habits. So thinking that they won’t be aware of our relationship with alcohol is perhaps an oversight and should definitely not be taken lightly.
“I think as a result, we’ll be a little more mindful of our own approach to alcohol both at home and when we’re with our sons in pubs or restaurants.”
According to the NHS, 40% of students said they had ever drunk alcohol in 2021, up from 44% in 2018, so underage drinking levels are slowly declining.
Jamie offers advice to parents who want to talk to their children about alcohol.
“I’ve found that talking about alcohol can be uncomfortable and difficult to bring up, especially with our teenage children,” he concluded.
“But it’s worth it, and it doesn’t have to be serious or condescending. After all, all parents want their children to be happy and healthy, and if talking about alcohol and the importance of staying safe helps children make better choices when they grow up, then for me it’s worth a try.
Other influencers involved in the initiative include ‘Dadlife’ author and parent of four Simon Hooper, The Only Way is Essex star and foster carer for over 250 children Debbie Bright and fitness instructor Javeno Mclean.
Kate Winstanley, director of Community Alcohol Partnerships, told Metro.co.uk that parenting the provision of alcohol to children is a “complex area” that “needs to be addressed sensitively”.
“Health advice is also relatively complex with different advice for different age groups,” she said.
“Parents face significant challenges in setting boundaries and resolving conflicts with their teenage children – they need help and support during the difficult period of parenthood.
“The key takeaway from our research is that most parents are simply not aware of the health recommendations that say an alcohol-free childhood is best.
“Only one in three parents are aware of the health advice on pre-marital drinking, and less than one in 10 understands what it is.”
She added that many parents “overestimate teen drinking” and warned against the “common myth” that giving alcohol to children when they are younger is a protective measure.
“In fact, many academic studies show that the longer parents wait to introduce alcohol to their children, the less likely they are to get drunk and develop alcohol problems later in life,” Kate said.
Studies have further shown that when parents do not allow children between the ages of 11 and 15 to drink, 89% of children respect this limit.
“This shows that there is a need to support parents in setting firm rules – they may be concerned that their child will rebel and drink more if they are too strict about alcohol, but most children will follow rules about not drinking,” she added.
“We want to help reduce the harm done to children by providing parents with the facts and encouraging parents to talk about the risks of underage drinking.”
Parents, carers and carers can find more help and advice on DRINKiQ, Diageo’s responsible drinking website, which has information and a range of resources to encourage moderation.
I need help?
The NHS recommends Drinkline, the national alcohol helpline. If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s drinking, there’s a toll-free number you can trust. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm).
Or you can use Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a free self-help group with a 12-step program.
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