Should I give my child a small sip of alcohol to try it out?

September 01, 2022 08:00

Some people think it’s harmless or even educational to give children a small sip of alcohol (or watered down wine/beer) to teach them about responsible drinking. However, as well intentioned as this may be, there is no evidence that offering children small sips of alcohol does anything to protect them against later binge or problem drinking.

Instead, 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, its 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

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’ve got into trouble through drinking, I'd rather know about it so I can help you – you don’t have to hide it.