Children and alcohol

Should I teach my child about alcohol by giving them a small sip?

Some people think it makes sense to give their children a small sip of alcohol to teach them about responsible drinking.

However, there is no evidence that by offering children small sips of alcohol this protects them against later binge or problem drinking.

Instead, studies have shown that its the attitudes parents have towards responsible drinking - and the way they model and practice drinking themselves - that makes a difference. Studies have shown that where parents actively discuss the pros and cons of alcohol and are open with their children about the effects of drinking and their concerns, there is less likelihood of children drinking riskily later in life.

That’s not to say parents can never drink or get drunk in front of their children, but the more parents attitudes towards drinking is based on not drinking to get drunk, being aware of the effects of alcohol and being open to discussions on drinking, the more chance their children will be protected from taking risks when they do drink.

Some key messages to give younger children about alcohol:

  • Alcohol is not for children, it's very strong and grown-ups also need to drink it carefully
  • Drinking too much alcohol can make you ill
  • Lots of people don’t drink alcohol


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Parents should reinforce the following messages to their teenage children:

  • Never feel pressurised to drink just because others are drinking – be yourself and make your own decisions
  • You can always come to me if you’re concerned about your drinking or someone else’s. If you’re out and in trouble call me, anytime day or night
  • To older teens: If you’re going out to drink, plan how much you want to drink and how you will get home safely – have your phone fully charged
  • If you get into trouble through drinking, I'd rather know about it so I can help you – you don’t have to hide it

Related Content

How much can I drink? What are the risks if you drink too much? Alcohol and my health