Just another parental guilt trip?

Most Australian parents think nothing of a couple of glasses of wine to relax in the evening or a nice cold beer after a hard day at work but now new research shows that drinking alcohol in front of your children regularly can contribute to binge drinking later in life

The problem doesn’t seem to be with the occasional drink. Children of European parents are introduced to alcohol quite early in life and even encouraged to sample it. They aren’t the ones going on the become binge drinkers. The ‘trigger’ seems to be the link between alcohol and mood, such as mummy drinking wine to relax in the evening or dad drinking a beer as a reward for working hard. When parents drink alcohol like this they are teaching children that alcohol is some sort of antidote for stress, fatigue, hardship...that’s where the real danger lies.

DrinkWise Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation focused on promoting change towards a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia. In June 2008 they released the Kids Absorb Your Drinking campaign. They are calling for a generational change in attitudes to alcohol and the critical element of change is parents changing their own drinking behaviour and attitudes to alcohol.

They state:

Be a positive role model, use alcohol responsibly. KIDS ABSORB YOUR DRINKING, so watch your own alcohol consumption and remember that there is the option of not drinking alcohol at all. If alcohol does play a role in your family life, talk to your child about how you use alcohol responsibly and the rules and boundaries you follow.

Try not to make every family gathering or celebration focus around alcohol. Make a point of having alcohol-free events to demonstrate to your children that you can enjoy yourself without alcohol

DrinkWise also recommends parents having a chat about alcohol and it's effects at around the age of 10, before peer pressure can lead to experimentation. This seems young but kids as young as 11 and drinking alcohol. They need to understand the consequences.

Still not convinced?

An extensive two-year-long research think tank by Demos has shown it's not enough for parents to wait until their children are in bed to enjoy some wine because "children are more aware than they are often given credit for.”

They added: “Nor does this mean that parents can never drink in the presence of their children. But it does mean that parents should bear in mind how frequently they are drinking – particularly in front of their children.”


The two-year study, Feeling the Effects, studied the lives of 17,000 people and conducted in-depth interviews with 50 families where there was at least one problem drinkers. They found that parental alcohol consumption suggests certain parenting behaviours which could also affect their children's future relationship with alcohol. Parents with high alcohol consumption were less likely to practice “tough love” type of parenting which best stops children drinking excessively. They also found that it's how often parents drink that has the most impact on children.

Study authors, Jonathan Birdwell, Emma Vandore and Bryanna Hahn, wrote:

Many parents think their drinking has little or no impact on their families, convincing themselves that if they feed and clean their children and make sure they attend school, they have fulfilled their most important parenting duties. Parenting is not easy, and recent reports suggest that some parents – particularly among the middle classes – reach for the bottle at night to cope with the stress. Yet our research in this report suggests, alcohol misuse is potentially hampering their ability to be the most effective, tough love type of parent, which in turn increases the risk of their children developing character traits which could expose them to problematic drinking behaviour.

To stop excessive drinking being handed down from one generation to another, Demos recommending prioritising parenting advice during alcohol support programmes; running a public awareness campaign on parenting style and alcohol consumption; and training GPs and midwives to identify parents who drink excessively.

Established in 2005 by the alcohol industry, DrinkWise Australia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation focused on promoting change towards a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia.

Parents who advocate drinking in front of kids argue that by drinking in moderation in front of their children sets a good example, but isn't NOT drinking in front of children a better example?

DrinkWise wants parents to send the message that they can have fun without alcohol, they they can relax without alcohol, that they can unwind after a busy day a work without alcohol. They want an end to '5 o'clock wine o'clock'.

What do you think? Is this just another parental guilt trip or is this the key to stopping teenage binge drinking?

Need some ideas for non-alcoholic drinks to serve at your next party? Check these ideas out. Delicious.