‘Nearly half of 10- to 14-year-olds say they have seen their parents drunk’, declared the alcohol industry-backed charity, Drinkaware, yesterday. According to a survey conducted for Drinkaware by ICM, 46 per cent of these children had seen their parents inebriated; 29 per cent had seen them drunk more than once.
While three quarters of parents said they were ‘very confident’ about discussing alcohol with their children and thought they were the best people to do so, Drinkaware expressed concern that ‘parents could be giving mixed messages to children about responsible drinking by appearing drunk in front of them’, adding: ‘Drinkaware is encouraging parents to consider the impact their drinking has on their children, as evidence shows what children see and what they are told are both influential in shaping their understanding of “normal” or acceptable drinking behaviour.’
That’s right, folks. Apparently, if children see their parents drinking and occasionally getting drunk, they might conclude that this is normal behaviour. Well, Drinkaware, it’s time we ‘had the conversation about alcohol’: drinking is normal behaviour. Okay, it may not be entirely sensible to get paralytic in front of the kids on a regular basis, but otherwise it’s good for children to know that drinking alcohol is an enjoyable activity that they will one day get the chance to engage in themselves.
In fact, seeing your parents and relations a bit tipsy can be a positively life-enhancing experience. When else do your mum and dad actually open up about their childhoods, or just chill out a bit and stop nagging you? Sure, your parents can be fun sometimes, in a parent-and-child way, but how often do you get to see them really let their hair down? Personally, I discovered a lot about my family through sitting quietly while the adults got the beer and sherry out and blethered about the old days.
What campaigns like Drinkaware seek to do is ‘denormalise’ drinking, just as other public-health campaigns try to denormalise our other little vices. The thing that we really need to denormalise is the endless lecturing about our lifestyles.