Does having a glass of wine in the evening make you a bad parent?

Does a glass of wine once the children are in bed affect the way you parent?

Alcohol, the festive season and parenting.

There is always an increase in awareness campaigns around alcohol in the run up to Christmas and this year is no different. This year, however, a campaign in Scotland is said to be aimed at parents.  Are we the worst offenders at Christmas, I wonder?  Do we put our children’s safety at risk over the festive period?

It’s not a surprise really.  Christmas is all about eating, drinking and being merry. Even my Grandma, who never drank at any other time during the year, used to have a snowball on Christmas day.  In fact come to that, I used to have one with her when I was definitely too young to buy alcohol myself; but that’s a whole other debate. So, what are the rights and wrongs of drinking as a parent?

The new advertising campaign features the 12 ‘Drinking’ Days of Christmas, sung by Lothian and Borders Police choir and is linked to a Twitter campaign (#12days) which will send out tips for parents and carers about alcohol and Christmas. (See more about this here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-20509659) It is also backed by a mother who realised that she had an alcohol problem when she missed Christmas morning with her children dues to staying up “until 5am wrapping their presents and drinking wine”.

A report was released back in October about Middle-class parents drinking habits.  The study was run by the charity 4Children (http://www.4children.org.uk/) and talks about a silent epidemic of drinking.  The statement on the front of the report (which you can download here http://www.4children.org.uk/Resources/Detail/Over-the-Limit) “More than 60% of parents believe their drinking has no effect on their family. This report says it does.”

The headlines in the 4Children report are frightening: “2 million parents drink every day and 6% of children live with a dependent drinker (around 700,000 children) while between 250,000 and 350,000 live with a problem drug user in the UK.”  They found that “the households most likely to drink were the wealthiest” and they suggest that “Parenting capacity can be adversely affected, and quality interactions with the youngest children disrupted, by parents who merely drank socially, or finished a bottle of wine over dinner.”

Suddenly the report doesn’t feel like something I can distance myself from.  I can’t write it off as being about alcoholics or people who drink more than me. I have declared it ‘wine o’clock’ when Munchkin is safely in bed and I have had the day from hell.  But is this a sensible thing to do?

The report also quotes a recent Netmums poll which was commissioned by 4Children and which found “29% of mothers, and 30% of their partners drink more alcohol every week than the government’s recommended amount (click here http://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-facts to see the recommended amounts)

The Charity did say in a BBC article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-19870190)  “Much more frequently, parental alcohol abuse will be more manageable, only occasionally visible to the world outside the family, and do not result in any activities that could lead to the involvement of social workers, or child protection plans.” So there is a not an all out accusation of problem parenting from those who have a glass of wine in the evening, but it does give us all a wake up call and suggest that we at least consider our drinking habits.  Both for our own health and the well-being of our children.

This Christmas, I refer you back to Ch Insp Goulden of the unit in charge of the #12days tweets. “We’re not saying don’t have a drink, what we are saying is have a sensible attitude to drinking – kids form their attitudes towards alcohol by observing how the adults around them behave around drink.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  • Leah

    There are lots of ways to be a ‘bad parent’ – and this doesn’t always include adult lifestyle choices which obviously endanger children.

    The localised Scottish alcohol campaign (like the Christmas Police one up here in Northumberland which focuses on parents, domestic violence and youngsters) has been run at Christmas time to highlight dangers that are current throughout the year (a bit like drink driving?).

    I’m not sure that it’s trying to state that parents are the worst offenders – it’s just that we as parents sometimes need reminding that our behaviour impacts on our children – and it is now being increasingly accepted that alcohol consumption (among all classes) impacts on youngsters.

    No one is trying to suggest that sensible alcohol consumption is a problem – rather they are asking us as parents to define sensible and seek support if we feel we have a problem – something middle class parents especially still fail to do because of stigma etc.

    Perhaps if we stop trying to establish what constitutes ‘bad parenting’ then as parents we can support each other to change aspects of our lives that we feel are causing problems? What we need is more support and less judgement perhaps?

    • morethanamummy

      A very well argued response. Indeed I think it was probably more the media who had suggested it was aimed at parents. That said it does no harm for any of us to reflect on our choices both as individuals and as parents.

      Thanks for your comments.

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