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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 stay safe

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

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