The Alcohol Education Trust - Parent Newsletter

Spring Term, March 2017, Ed 24

In this last newsletter before Easter we reiterate advice to parents on preventing underage drinking and talking to children about alcohol. 

If you'd like learn more about the diversity and range of things we do as a charity each year, all over England, you can now read our Impact Report here.

Underage Drinking

When and how do you get talking about alcohol?

On average, children in the UK have their first WHOLE alcoholic drink at  just aged 13, and this is overwhelmingly in a family setting, as it should be. There is however, a world of difference between sips on special occasions and whole drinks. Medical guidance is that an alcohol free childhood until the age of at least 15 is advised, and this is for very good reasons.

Underage drinking has halved in England over the last decade, with 62% of 11 - 15 year olds saying they haven’t even tried alcohol and the number of 15 year olds drinking weekly has fallen to 10%. Even among 16 - 24 year-olds, just 18% binge drink regularly, contrary to what the media tell us, so teenagers are much better behaved than in our day! The key thing to remember as parents or carers however, is the more relaxed we are about alcohol in the home, the more likely our kids are to drink outside of it – at parties and in public places, and that’s where risk taking is most likely to happen.

Why is age 13 too young?

The Chief Medical Officers  tells us that parents should wait until at least age 15 and an alcohol free childhood is best, why?

  • The same amount of alcohol has a much greater effect on the body and organs of a child or young person than on an adult, because their bodies (esp. the brain and liver) are still growing and developing.

As parents or carers, the longer we can delay the age of drinking outside of the home, the more likely our kids are to escape the risks around drinking

The more relaxed we are about alcohol in the home, the more likely our kids are to drink outside of it – at parties and in public places, and that’s where risk taking is most likely to happen.

When and how to talk about alcohol

Just 1% of 11 year olds think it is okay to get drunk or to have been drunk,  but by age 13 teenagers are looking more towards their peers and friends, so it’s important to get talking. Children as young as seven can recognise the difference between relaxed social drinking and drunkenness too, so we have to set a good example ourselves! Obviously the approach depends on the age of our children, but don’t leave it too late, age 11 is a  great time to start talking, up to age 13, depending on the nature of your child, and keep the conversation going.

Try to make the conversation natural, using something like a TV programmes and magazines can be a good place to start. If a celebrity has been photographed drunk after a night out, talk to your child about their perception of this, and whether they think it's glamorous or embarrassing. It’s an important conversation to have.
"I use soaps, like Hollyoaks or Eastenders, to talk about how alcohol can alter characters' personalities and cause them to regret their actions when drunk," says Sarah Kelly, 45, from Staines, Kent, mum to Louise, 16 and Kate, 14. Car journeys are great too, as your child can avoid eye contact, and they can’t escape!

Explain why alcohol can be dangerous and what problems it can cause, without demonising it - teaching moderation is the key. Research shows some teenagers believe five glasses per night is normal, but this is bingeing and represents a dangerous level. Discuss alcohol measurements, and how to keep track of what is and isn't a safe level of consumption.

You can use  tips, information and advice on talking to teens about alcohol on our website . There are some fun games and quizzes you can do together too via

  • Find a relaxed time when you can both chat, such as when you are giving them a lift, or watching TV rather than when they are half way out the door or with their friends.
  • Talk about how they may feel or what they may do under pressure, in difficult situations such as being offered a drink, or being offered a lift home by a friend who has been drinking.
  • Talk openly and honestly about the potential dangers of binge drinking. Make it an inclusive discussion, not a lecture. If you do drink, be honest about your own choices, rather than just presenting the negatives.
  • Talk about how alcohol can influence people's judgement and help them to think through how it might feel to regret something the next day.
  • Make them aware of drinks being spiked and how to avoid putting themselves in vulnerable situations. Encourage them and their friends to look out for each other.
  • Explore how alcohol affects people in different ways, and how it can make some people aggressive and violent. Talk through ways of keeping safe and walking away from trouble.
  • Ensure your teen knows that, no matter how angry you may be with them, you are there for them, and that they can call you if someone gets hurt or they are worried about something.
  • Try not to take it personally or feel downhearted if they don't take your advice. Sometimes teens have to make their own mistakes to realise that what you have said is true.

Will they listen to me?
You may think they don’t listen - but 70% of children ages 8 to 17 say their parents are the No.1 influence on whether they drink alcohol. BUT, Only 21%  say their parents are good role models, and that most don't set ground rules that they stick to. 55% of young people say that their school provides clear rules but only 27% say they have to abide by clear rules and consequences in their family, or that their parents keep track of where they are.

So what can you do?

There are some practical ways to delay teenage drinking

  • Encourage sports, hobbies, clubs & social activities that keep your kids busy. Kids say hanging around with nothing to do is a key reason for drinking
    If you work, try and share child care with friends during holidays, could they volunteer? Do odd jobs for friends? Public places such as parks or the beach are where young people drink outside of the home (other than at private parties).
  • Make sure that you know the facts and laws about alcohol and can talk in a balanced way about the pros and cons of drinking, then you’ll be more equipped to talk and listen to your teenager and to understand the pressures they’re facing from their peers and wanting to fit in.
  • Make sure that the house rules are clear, agree them together and also what will happen if they are broken. The rules should change as they mature and as you feel they can be trusted more too.
  • If your teenager is going to a party, drop them off and pick them up, or book a taxi. It’s hard to hide having had too much to drink and it shortens the time spent at the party. Try and avoid sleepovers after parties in particular.
  • Although, your teenager will hate it, check where they are going and who they are with, and whether their plans are genuine?  
  • Be careful where you leave alcohol in the house.

If I don’t give my teen alcohol, wont they get something worse from somewhere else?

Some parents argue that if they don’t give their teenagers alcohol to go to parties, then they will ask their friends or peers to buy it for them. Due to proof of age verification, it’s almost impossible for under 18s to buy alcohol themselves, and it they ask their friends (even if over 18) to buy alcohol for them, they’re asking them to break the law  and risk a fine. (This is called ‘buying by proxy’)

So it is overwhelmingly parents and close family members who are the main suppliers of alcohol. As parents, we really are key. Teenagers say themselves that we define how much and at what age they begin drinking.
Aside from the health risks associated with underage drinking, drinking to get drunk (40% of 15 year olds say they’ve been drunk at least once) -  means many teens are risking their sexual health. Experts say 14 and 15 year olds who drink are more likely to engage in sexual activity - with 11% of 15 to 16 year olds admitting to unprotected sex while drunk. These are not the only problems.There are strong links between drinking high levels of alcohol and youth offending, teenage pregnancy, truancy and exclusion from school. Nearly half of all 10 to 17 years olds who drink once a week or more admit to some sort of criminal activity or disorderly behaviour, around two-thirds get into an argument and about a fifth get into a fight. Research has also found that teenage alcohol consumption  can affect GCSE performance, with grades falling by 20 points among those who drink weekly – that’s the difference between an A* and a C.

Helping teens make sensible choices with alcohol

The research shows that lots of teenagers are exposed to alcohol and that this often happens outside of the home. With that in mind, the best thing a parent can do to prevent underage drinking is to talk - and listen - to teenagers in a way that encourages them to behave more responsibly. Get the message across that, while alcohol is a part of life and can make people feel nice and relaxed, it's still a drug, and too much at once can be dangerous. Teach your child about sensible drinking - pacing drinks, alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and always eating a decent meal before drinking. Warn them how easy it is to go over their limits, make a fool of themselves and compromise their safety or do something they might regret later. Offer your child the chance to ask any questions so they can come to you if they ever need any help. As they get older, remind them to always keep their mobile fully charged and to let you, or  someone outside of their friendship group know where they are going. They should always plan how they are going to get home before they go out and keep enough money aside to get home safely. Finally, drink spiking is a real risk, so they should never leave their drink unattended or accept drinks from someone they do not know well.

Teenagers and parties

Bearing in mind that the key place where teenagers drink is at parties, think seriously before agreeing to host a party for your teenager yourself (especially for those under 16). If you do feel happy, there are some tips on our website that will help it go well!

If you child is starting to go out to teenage parties, set the ground rules as carefully as you can to ensure your child stays safe. For more details see the advice on our website.

Setting a good example

Parents' drinking habits are an important factor in the way children experience alcohol. 49% of 16 and 17 year-olds questioned by the Drinkaware charity said they had seen their parents drunk, and therefore think this approach to booze is normal. A recent Finnish study found that where parents drank a lot, their teenagers tended to as well - either following their parent's example or because drinking made the parent more lax in monitoring their children's comings and goings, and more heavy-handed in disciplining them. That, in turn, increased the children's likelihood of drinking and getting drunk.
Look at your own behaviour around drink. Do you come home from work and reach for a bottle? Drink every day? Only feel relaxed with a glass in your hand? These gestures send a powerful message to your children, so try and cut down.
If you’re worried at all or would like to ask our advice you cans send us a confidential email to

Community Fundraising news

Finally, following on from the success of our Made in Dorset fundraising weekend last year, we are really looking forward to this year’s event. On Saturday the 8th April, we will be hosting a cabaret evening with a four-course dinner prepared from local produce as well as a curated art exhibition. The next day, Sunday 9th April, sees another Made in Dorset event celebrating all things made, grown or produced in Dorset. We will have stalls offering a wide range of local produce including flowers, chocolates, cakes, arts and crafts. We are sure these events will be great fun and are really looking forward to welcoming people along! Both events will be held in Cerne Abbas Village Hall in Dorset.

We are very grateful to our sponsors Pardoes Solicitors, Poundbury Wealth management, The Brace of Butchers and Dukes auctioneers for underwriting the event costs, enabling all proceeds to benefit The Alcohol Education Trust beneficiaries. We have had some wonderful prizes donated too, from Ansvar insurance, The Corinthia Hotel, Bride Valley Estate, Sir Oliver Letwin and Neals Yard – thank you so much!  If you would like to get involved or come along, please email for further information. We’d be delighted to see you!

AET resources comprise of and a Teacher Workbook, booklets ‘Alcohol and You’ for 15yrs+ and ‘Talking to Your Kids About Alcohol’ parent and carer guide.
We also offer teacher CPD workshops and parent information talks.

For further information on any of the above please contact
Helena Conibear, Founder, Director
Kathryn Arnott-Gent, Parent and Schools Coordinator - N Region
Helen Dougan, SE Region & SEND Coordinator
Kate Hooper, Schools Coordinator

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Gordon Redley BEd (Cantab)
Christina Benjamin BSc (Hons) PGCE
Patricia Garven Cert Ed.
Kate Larard MSc, HV, RM, SRN
Victoria Mc Donaugh MA (Hons), PGCE
Keith Newton ACA
Alison Winsborough BMus, PGCE

The Alcohol Education Trust, Frampton House, Frampton, Dorset, DT2 9NH
01300 320869
Registered Charity Number 1138775