The age of reason

Do you know what the law says about how old a child needs to be before they can drink alcohol?

The law says,

‘It’s illegal for children under five to drink alcohol at home or on private premises’

So basically those responsible for the child are legally able to give alcohol to a child that is five or more years old.  ‘Responsible drinkers’ may well see no harm in giving a child alcohol.  After all they probably drink it, most people drink it and only alcoholics end up in trouble with alcohol, but they are considered to be different and it will ‘never happen’ to them.

In fact many drinkers start with a ‘naughty little tipple’ at a young age, and even though many will dislike the taste and their bodies will be trying to reject the alcohol, they will often persist. They will want to please dad, or maybe mum, or someone that they particularly respect. They will want to be ‘grown up’ and to ‘fit in’ and so they will drink it until they ‘acquire’ the taste.

Alcohol is an addictive substance. Anyone can get hooked, although some may be more vulnerable than others due to the circumstances in which they find themselves, including how they are taught to manage their lives and their emotions.

If a child grows up in chaos and witnesses those close to them struggling with life and using alcohol in an attempt to ‘self medicate’ their way through it, then they may choose to do the same. Our children don’t always listen to us, but they are always watching, and they will often ‘copy’ what we do.

What they are intended to see will also be supported by advertising.  They will be shown happy partying people, sophistication, glamour, a ‘responsible’ culture of recreational drug taking.

Their own eyes may witness a contradictory real life version of that culture. It may include vomit, injury, violence, hospital, arrest, and people arguing and fighting, embarrassing photos, unintended infidelity and ruined relationships, not forgetting the numerous days lost to hangovers.

At least some of the foundations of how we behave in our adult lives are formed by what we learn during our earlier years, and to some extent we are reliant on those bringing us up to make ‘responsible’ decisions on our behalf.

So does the law needs changing? Or does the way we educate our children about drug use, including alcohol need a closer look?

Probably both I would suggest.

2 comments for “The age of reason

  1. 11 July, 2012 at 10:13

    However if we look to France and see children at the dining table learning to drink with watered down wine moderately and responsibly, there is no need to have a sneaky drink.

    I personally believe young people can learn to respect alcohol and drink responsibly. This will not work for all but it did work for my children (18 and 22) and many others I know.

    If you ban something it goes underground. In my education work I have always advocated sensible drinking, and whole family lifestyle education, based on a Right Time, Right Place, Right Amount and Right Company approach.

    David Woods

    Editor: Turning Points Youth Magazine http://www.turning-points.org.uk

    Retired Police Officer and multi award winning drug and alcohol educator

  2. 9 July, 2012 at 16:12

    As a registered foster carer I was amazed at the wording on one of the forms my wife and I were asked to sign by our social worker. It stated that we were not allowed to give alcohol to children under the age of 5. So I asked if it were policy to allow children over that age to drink alcohol. Thankfully, it was not permitted at any age whilst fostering, but it made me think at the time how daft the law is, but then many parents/carers are even dafter I believe.
    The law needs changing yesterday in my opinion. However, educating those that look after children is not as simple, but definitely needs doing. We need strong, hard hitting campaigns on all forms of media, aimed at adults later night viewing, with sickening scenes that might jolt a few people into reducing their alocohol intake, not namby-pamby stuff. Also lighter, childrens’ TV viewing time campaigns should re-inforce the message to our children.
    By the way, is Mr Angry a good role model? He always seems to be in The Moaning Cow.

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