The first time I can remember drinking alcohol, I was about 14. I was at a house party for a friend’s birthday and I vividly remember my Mum (being a right-on social worker) had sent me with a 6-pack of alcohol free beer so that I could join in with the cool kids, without compomising my values, or embarrassing myself.
It worked brilliantly.
Well, it went brilliantly if by “brilliantly” you mean that I chose to hide the Kaliber in the front garden and join in with the cool kids by downing half a bottle of Bacardi, then ended the evening projectile vomiting up my friend’s kitchen wall. I subsequently spent 2 days in bed, feigning food poisoning and never, ever drank Bacardi again.
During my ‘troubled’ teenage years, I listened to a lot of Peter Gabriel and purloined a lot of hard liquor from my parents’ cupboards. And I’d like to take the opportunity to apologise to my long-suffering Mum for topping up her vodka bottle until it was probably about 2% proof. Then I went off to university and made a lot of poor judgement calls, based on far too many bottles of something called ‘Two Dogs’ which I seem to remember was the colour of drain cleaner. Maybe it was drain cleaner.
Basically, then, I have zero moral high ground as a parent.
So, what do I tell Flea?
I really want Flea to know that, more often than not, alcohol makes you sad, not happy.
I want her to understand that ‘beer goggles’ are a REAL thing, and alcohol + boys = all kinds of bad decisions
I want her to know that there are far better ways to relax at the end of a stressful day than with gin, or wine. There’s Twitter, for starters.
Above all, I want her to know that just one, single incident of drinking to excess could lead to her being sexually assaulted, injured or even killed. And it’s not worth it.
But how do I avoid being a hypocrite, when I’ve taken those same risks and made those poor choices myself? Is alcohol just a rite of passage for young people?
How do we start a conversation with young people about alcohol, and when should we be having those conversations – what do you think?
I feel really passionately about this issue, which is why I’m so pleased to be working with Drinkaware on its Mumtank initiative, which provides parents with common sense advice and facts about young people and drinking. Drinkaware has created a range of materials to support parents, and advise them on how to talk to kids about alcohol, so young people have the knowledge and confidence to make safe choices about alcohol.
Tonight, we’ll be on Twitter between 8pm and 9pm with GP Dr Sarah Jarvis and Superintendent Julie Whitmarsh of Devon and Cornwall Police, talking about kids and alcohol. We will also be joined by parent bloggers Chris Mosler and Rosie Scribble, who are part of the Mumtank initiative.