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Many of us can relate to having a glass of wine after a tough day at work. In moderation, alcohol can relax us, make us more sociable, and even be good for us.
However, it’s hardly news that too much of a good thing causes problems, and alcohol misuse can increase our risk of diseases like liver cancer, heart disease, and pancreatitis.
And if you have children, it might not take much for alcohol to have a negative effect.
No more than a glass of wine could make your kids anxious about your behaviour, according to a new report by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), which has shown children are more likely to feel worried about their parents if they are tipsy.
The report, named “Like sugar for adults: The effect of non-dependent parental drinking on children & families,” used data from an online survey of 1,000 parents and their children, focus groups, and a public inquiry with experts and practitioners.
You don’t have to drink a lot for your kids to be affected.
It concluded that parents don’t have to regularly drink a lot for their children to notice their behaviour change, and be negatively affected by it.
Seeing a parent tipsy or drunk made children feel worried, feel less comforted than usual, notice unpredictable parent behaviour, and have their bedtime routines disrupted.
Over half of parents reported to have been tipsy in front of their child, and 29% admitted to being drunk. 29% also thought it was fine to be drunk in front of their children as long as it wasn’t a regular occurrence.
As for how the children thought of it, those who had seen their parents under the influence were less likely to consider their parents’ drinking as positive role model behaviour, regardless of how seldom or often it happened.
Nearly one in five children said they had felt embarrassed by their parents’ drinking, 11% felt worried, 7% said their parents had argued with them more than usual, 8% said their parents had been more unpredictable, 12% said they were paid less attention, and 15% said they had been put to bed earlier or later than usual.
Caroline Flint, the MP for Don Valley, said the report shows that children know a lot more about their parents’ drinking than we may realise. She added that we are too quick to dismiss parental drinking as harmless fun and relaxation, but children pick up on relatively small changes in behaviour, and this can be alarming for them.
“All parents strive to do what’s best for their children, so it’s important to share this research about the effects drinking can have on parenting, and what steps parents can take to protect their children,” said Katherine Brown, Chief Executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies.
“Children are exposed to a barrage of marketing messages that glamourise drinking with strong links to sport and pop music. Parents have a tough job on their hands teaching children about the negative side of alcohol.
“Hopefully this study will help inform guidance that enables parents to make fully informed choices about their own drinking in front of their children.”