Encouraging sensible drinking
Young people see alcohol on sale all around them, and they might also see their parents drinking alcohol. This can make it difficult for them to understand that alcohol can be dangerous. Find out how to help your child develop a healthy attitude towards alcohol.
Recommended daily limits
Government guidelines say that men shouldn’t drink more than three to four alcohol units a day. Women are advised to drink no more than two to three units a day. The amounts are different because men’s bodies can process alcohol more quickly than women’s.
These guidelines are for adults, but the Government’s health experts recommend they are also followed by young people if they drink. However, because young people take longer to process alcohol, it is a good idea for them to drink less, or not to drink at all. Alcohol poses particular risks to young people under 15, and the advice is that children under this age should not drink.
How is alcohol content measured?
The alcoholic content of a drink is measured in units. A pint of lager generally contains just over 2 units, while a glass of wine can contain between 1.5 to over 3 units. This depends on the size of the glass and the strength of the wine.
Alcoholic drinks vary in strength and also in volume, and these amounts are always shown on bottles and cans. The volume is marked in millilitres or ‘ml’. The strength is indicated as a percentage of alcohol – often abbreviated to ‘ABV’ or simply ‘vol.’
It’s easy to work out the number of alcohol units in a drink. Just multiply the strength by the volume and divide by 1000.
Encouraging a healthy attitude towards alcohol
As children grow up, their attitude towards alcohol will be shaped by what they see, hear and experience at home. The following tips might help your child develop a healthy attitude to alcohol.
What parents of younger children can do
The following tips might help your child develop a healthy attitude to alcohol as they grow up:
- if your child is curious about alcohol, talk to them about it - tell them about both the negative and social sides of drinking
- make sure young children don't drink alcohol by accident or without your permission - if you have alcohol at home, keep it out of reach
- if you drink, set a good example and drink in moderation - it will help your child develop a sensible attitude to alcohol
- respect the law regarding young people and alcohol - don't give alcohol to your child if they are underage
- make sure the information your child has on alcohol is accurate - for more information visit the Talk to FRANK website
More information on alcohol can be found at:
- Know your limits website
- Public Health Agency website
- Health and Social Services Care Trusts (contacts section)
What parents of older children can do
It's difficult to know when to let teenagers drink as there is no 'right' age. Some parents may feel that giving their child a small amount of alcohol in their early teens will give them a responsibile attitude to alcohol, but there is no scientific evidence to support this. In fact, research shows that the earlier a child starts drinking the higher the risk of developing serious alcohol-related problems later in life. However, if your child has started drinking however, these tips will help them learn to drink safely:
- set clear boundaries for your child and be consistent about them
- encourage your child to stick to lower-strength brands and not to drink too quickly
- talk to your child about alcohol
- try not to overreact if your child drinks against your wishes, or drinks too much
- if your child has drunk excessively, explain how you feel and encourage them to talk about why it happened
- agree rules on alcohol at parties and be around if your child has a party at home
- if your child is going to drink, give them starchy food (like bread or pasta) so they won't be drinking on an empty stomach
- remove temptations at home like your own stock of drink (especially spirits)
- make sure your child has a way of getting home safely at night
- You, your child and alcohol
What the law says
There are strict laws on alcohol consumption in Northern Ireland. You should check that you are not breaking the law by allowing your child to drink.