Bottom's up.When British Prime Minister David Cameron left his 8-year-old daughter in the pub, there were no doubt plenty of snide remarks made around the world about us Brits and our alcohol intake.
A new study by British charity 4Children is only likely to add fuel to that fire. Entitled Over The Limit: The Truth About Families and Alcohol, among the report's findings were the following troubling statistics:
- 22% of children live with a parent who drinks hazardously
- More than a third of all domestic violence cases involve alcohol
- 19% of parents believe that drinking alcohol has a positive effect on their parenting
This last statistic particularly caught my eye - because depending on how the question is worded, I might actually be one of the 19%.
I do not, for a moment, suggest that I am a better parent after I have had a drink - but I am not sure I am a worse one either. I do think that regularly taking time for myself, which includes enjoying the occasional beer or glass of wine (usually after the kids have gone to bed), has a positive influence on my overall wellbeing. And overall wellbeing contributes to better parenting.
Read More: Do You Drink In Front Of Your Kids?
But I am clearly biased.
I grew up in Britain, where family afternoons in the pub are considered a perfectly normal, pleasant way to spend your Sunday, and where "strict rules" over teen alcohol use are more about where, when and how much teens are allowed to drink - rather than a blanket prohibition. As such, I confess I have struggled with some of the more puritanical attitudes of US society.
When I wrote about whether you drink in front of your kids, for example, I was actually surprised this was even a question. After all, if you drink but hide it from your children, doesn't that send the worst kind of signals to those you are trying to bring up? Yet looking back now at my home country with my (sober!) expat glasses firmly in place, I have to ask whether those idyllic afternoons in pub gardens were as healthy as I remember them.
I was lucky to have parents who rarely overindulged, and who were responsible about making sure someone was "on duty". But I have seen plenty of occasions where other parents - some of whom are acquaintances - are visibly drunk infront of their kids. Perhaps more tellingly, I don't remember anyone being too concerned about it - myself included.
The legal, socially acceptable status of alcohol means we as parents must be self-critical and culturally aware. I continue to struggle with overly puritanical attitudes to alcohol. You can't legislate away all harm or risk, and you have to allow parents to kick back and relax - perhaps even be a little selfish from time-to-time. But there is a profound difference between the occasional self-indulgence and over-indulgence. And while I am comfortable that my own family's attitudes to alcohol are well within safe, sensible limits - I am also aware that I have failed to call out friends for whom this may not be the case.
This study is a useful reminder that some of the attitudes and behaviors we take for granted may be masking real harm.
It's a sobering thought.
This post was written by Sami Grover.
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