Americans have a much more complicated relationship with alcohol it seems than other countries, in which it's much more common for parents to allow their kids to have a sip of alcohol at the dinner table. But, for some families, things are a little different across the pond, as one British mom lets her kids drink at 13 years old, according to The Mirror, and is causing some controversy in the United Kingdom after explaining her reasoning for allowing her kids to do so.
Shona Sibary — a 47-year-old journalist who has found herself in hot water before for once saying that all moms want to have sons — went on Good Morning Britain to talk about how she lets the eldest of her four kids, ranging from 7 to 18 years old, try alcohol with her supervision in the name of them "learning their limits." According to her interview, she said:
You wouldn't get into a car without learning how to drive and what I'm doing for my children is, by giving them small amounts on special occasions, they're learning how their bodies react to alcohol with food. Therefore they're in a far better position when they go out with their friends to know what they're capable of drinking.
In Britain, she's not breaking any laws. Kids are allowed to drink at home with a parents after the age of 5 and also get a beer at a pub with a parent when they're 16 years old, according to the BBC. There are also 47 states in America that allow kids to possess or consume alcohol with their parents, even if they're under 21 years old, according to The Washington Post. So it's not illegal, per se. But there's also not a lot of evidence that it's all that safe, or teaching kids any lesson.
Sibrary defended her position saying that her mother died of alcoholism in 2015, "My situation's slightly different because my mother died of alcoholism two years ago, so my children have seen the abuse of alcohol up close and personal, but that hasn't changed my approach," she said on the Good Morning Britain segment.
Dr. Richard Piper, from a non-profit called Alcohol Concern, was on the show with her and disagreed that letting kids drink would teach them about how much they can handle. Piper cited the Chief Medical Officer of Britain, saying that no alcohol is best while brains and bodies are developing. He added:
An alcohol-free childhood is the best childhood. Some children may be able to cope with a different situation but for the majority of children we've looked at that is pretty good advice. If you're giving children alcohol to teach them you may be leading them to harm. The earlier people start to drink the more likely they are to have drinking problems later in life. That's evidenced.
What's not evidenced is that letting kids drink early teaches them about responsibility. There are numerous studies that have found just the opposite, according to The Guardian.
In fact, a 2015 study found that kids who are allowed to "sip" are more likely to drink in high school. A 2011 Swedish study found that children who are allowed to try alcohol can result in more binge drinking for girls (but not boys), according to CNN. A 1997 study found that kids who are allowed to sip with mom and dad are more likely to initiate drinking on their own as a teen.
It's not that kids who are allowed to drink alcohol are destined to become heavy drinkers, but it is apparent that a relationship with alcohol can be formed pretty early on in a child's development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then again, another famous 2004 study found that kids who were allowed to drink under parent supervision did reduce the instances of binge drinking later on. So what's a parent to do?
A new study out last week, reported in The Guardian, shows that more and more parents — one in six, to be precise — aren't heeding the warnings from health professionals that kids shouldn't have any alcohol before 15 and passing them a beer or wine glass as early as 14 years old. In addition to concerns about dependence and binge drinking later in life, health officials also noted that alcohol consumption in teens can lead to other health problems, like heart disease, later in life, too.
The best way to model responsible drinking, according to Dr. John Larsen of Drinkaware, who spoke to The Guardian about the new study, is to talk to your kids about drinking and, of course, to model good drinking habits.
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