Dear Little Ones,
How are you? Are you in front of the television, alone, because Mummy and Daddy got drunk last night and need to sleep it off? Fun isn’t it! Or maybe you’re in front of the television alone because Mummy and Daddy are simply tired, and need to sleep. It’s still fun of course. You can watch Horrid Henry, despite Mummy banning it for fear that the naughty little tike will teach you some dodgy new tricks.
However, the reason I’m writing to you is that last week a group of clever people published a study saying that parents getting tipsy or drunk in front of their children may be damaging to their children. I wanted to check in, make sure you were OK, and clarify a few points from the study.
Firstly, 15% of children asked their parents to drink less.
That means 85% of you don’t have a problem with the amount of alcohol your parents drink! Hooray for the 85% who are getting it right! Some of you might not be telling your parents that you have a problem, but my experience of little ones tells me that the words form in your mouth and come straight out – your brain is rarely involved. Indeed, the level of respect that most children show their parents indicates that you would have no qualms yelling in Sainsburys “don’t buy a box of wine – it’s so bloody common. If you must drink just buy a bottle of Malbec. And make this one last more than an hour. Now take me to the sweets aisle and buy me a massive bar of chocolate so that I won’t tell Dad what I saw here.”
Secondly, 16% of parents have felt guilty or ashamed of their parenting as a result of their drinking. That figure seems low. I can tell you now, 130% of parents have felt guilty or ashamed of their parenting at some point without alcohol being involved. It’s part of the gig. Stop pointing it out – it only makes it worse.
Thirdly, all of the people asked in this sufficiently large study said they drank 14 units of alcohol a week, or less. This means that they officially don’t drink too much. They are, officially, moderate drinkers. Almost healthy. They are clearly mindful of the amount of alcohol they drink. Perhaps this mindfulness is rubbing off on you my little ones? Just a thought!
The conclusion that the researchers came to is that this is the first evidence that even moderate drinking can upset children. A big deal. What they concluded was that parents need to talk to their children about alcohol consumption.
But here’s a thought. Could it be that the alcohol consumption was totally irrelevant and actually parents just need to talk to their children? You get upset about all sorts of stuff all the time whether your parents are drunk or not. Talking to you helps.
In the spirit of the study, I asked my own children if they think I drink too much. I’ll be honest little ones, most of my drinking I now do at home, because I have no money or time to go out! They said…
“No! Mummy, you drink a bit every now and then but you don’t have a problem. Now can I have some crisps?”
I said no to the crisps. I checked if they wanted to recant their view. They didn’t. I’m in the 85%!
I have no doubt that some mummies and daddies have a problem with alcohol. They weren’t included in this study because these mummies and daddies drink 14 units in a couple of hours. What they drink in a week is way higher. Perhaps the money used to pay for this study would have been better served helping to show those mummies and daddies that they drink too much instead of making the people who seem to be getting it nearly right feel bad.
Your Mummy and Daddy might like to have a drink now and then. They may even drink in front of you. Mostly this will be at social occasions because grown-ups like to have a tipple at social occasions. Watch them. Are they having fun? Or are they throwing up in a bush around the back? It’s highly likely that you will grow up to have the same attitude to alcohol as your parents. If your parents are having fun, you probably have nothing to worry about. If your parent is throwing up in a bush, march over there and tell them “If I see you doing this, I will grow up and do it too. Is that what you want?”
And then watch them the following day. If they can’t function because of a hangover, they definitely drank too much. You have full permission to jump up and down on them the whole day – for on this occasion it’s for the good of their health.
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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown-ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. She is also passionate about helping and supporting parents through the early years and lobbying for a better understanding of them and the issues they present. Occasionally she also speaks up for the kids too!