Science Says Getting Drunk Around Your Kids Is A Bad Idea

Past research has shown that having a drink every once in a while may not be so bad for your health. But moderate to heavy drinking can cause a problem — and not just for your body, but your children, too. According to a new study, getting drunk around your kids may have unintended consequences on their behavior and your relationship.

A new report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) found that children who see their parents drunk or tipsy can feel anxious or embarrassed, leading to disrupted bedtime routines, according to the Guardian. Researchers also learned that kids who see a parent in such a state are less likely to regard them as a positive role model, the Guardian reported.

So how many parents drink heavily around their children? According to the IAS study, three in 10 parents have reported being drunk in front of their kids, while half have been tipsy. Katherine Brown, chief executive of the Institute of Alcohol Studies in London, told the Guardian,

It is worrying that the majority of parents reported being tipsy or drunk in front of their child. All parents strive to do what’s best for their children, but this report has highlighted a troubling gap in their knowledge.

For the study, researchers surveyed 997 adults and their kids across the United Kingdom, according to the Independent. Each participating parent didn't consume more than 14 alcohol units a week, which is the recommended limit set by the U.K.'s chief medical officer. One alcohol unit is the equivalent to about 8 ounces of beer or around 2.6 ounces of wine, according to Drinkaware. Around four to seven glasses of wine would equal 14 ounces, accounting for size and alcohol strength, the Independent reported.

The study also found that children feel disconnected from their parents when drinking is involved. Twelve percent of kids surveyed said their parents paid less attention because of their drinking, according to the Guardian. More so, 7 percent of children said their parents argued with them more than usual after drinking, while 15 percent said they have asked their parents to drink less alcohol, BBC News reported. Many of the 11- and 12-year-old children surveyed said parents drink to "solve their problems," and described alcohol as "like sugar for adults," researchers learned.

But more than one-quarter of participants' parents didn't see the harm in becoming inebriated around their kids. And 29 percent of parents believe that getting drunk in front of your children is "acceptable," as long as it doesn't happen often, the study found, according to the Independent.

The IAS study, of course, is not to shame parents who drink. Instead, researchers hope that it provides parents insight into how their drinking habits may impact their children. The study should also serve as a guide on how to minimize the potential impact of even moderate drinking, Brown told the Guardian.

Researchers also hope the report leads to an open conversation about alcohol use among parents. Although not every parent who drinks has an alcohol use disorder, drinking behaviors may be indicative of underlying issues. Viv Evans of the Alcohol and Families Alliance, which co-produced the report, said of the findings, according to BBC News,

We hope that this study goes some way to supporting parents in a difficult job, and alerting us all to the importance of preventing problems with alcohol before they arise.

Every parent can have a drink now and then. Even though I rarely drink, I don't mind having a glass of cider once in a while to wind down. But it's also important parents remember that everything you do — even sipping on a small glass of wine — will have affect your child. And what you do with that information is crucial.

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