Drinkaware: the age of your child's first drink is cruicial ....
...so it’s important to talk to them before they have their
first experience with alcohol.
Their attitudes will change over time so here’s a quick guide of what to say when.
Ages 8–10 Awareness
At this age children’s perceptions of alcohol are usually negative. They might start to take notice when
people around them are drinking, for example at the dinner table or a family occasion like a wedding.
“If you know your child is drinking, make sure they’re aware of the risks and give them tips to help them
They may ask simple questions such as,”What is that?”or “Why do you drink?”
Explain to them that alcohol is only for adults and
that there is a sociable side to alcohol, but if you drink too much there can
be bad consequences to your health and safety.
Ages 9–12 Curiosity
At this age children will become more curious about alcohol and may start to ask questions like:
– What does it taste like?
– What does alcohol do to you?
– What does being drunk feel like?
– If you’re drunk, do you stay drunk forever?
This is a good time to talk about the impact of alcohol on the body. You could also explain how it feels to
Be drunk, for example, you might do silly things or feel sick. You might want to talk about the difference
Between drinking in moderation and abusing alcohol. Make sure they understand that different types of
alcohol have different strengths.
Ages 11–14 Experimentation
By ages 11 to 14 children may be experimenting with alcohol. They could be offered drinks by a friend
or might seek to try it themselves. You might be thinking about giving them a small amount. At this age
they might ask:
– Can I sleep over at my friend’s house when their parents are away?
– Can I have some of your drink?
– Why are you allowed to drink but I’m not? Now’s a good time to talk about peer pressure and help
your child think of ways to deal with any pressure they might be under to drink. You might want to
discuss rules about drinking and agree consequences should they break these – making it clear the rules
are there to keep them safe.
Ages 13–17 Experienced
By this age your child may have had a number of alcoholic drinks and tested their limits – so might
consider themselves experienced drinkers. They might ask more challenging questions like:
– Can I take some drink to the party?
– Can you buy me some drinks?
– But all my friends are drinking, why can’t I?
If you know your child is drinking, make sure they’re aware of the risks and give them tips to help them
stay safe If they’re going out, find out who they are with and what they are planning to do. Agree with
them that if they ever get into a situation involving alcohol where they feel uncomfortable, they can call
and get picked up, no questions asked. It’s important to be aware of how accessible alcohol is in your
house and not to provide your child with alcohol. But if you do decide to, make sure you give them non-
alcoholic drinks too and encourage them to alternate