When did it become acceptable to serve alcohol to 14 year olds?

by | Nov 16, 2017

Alcohol at teenage parties - Nikki Young


I’ve been out of the loop for some years, but now I find myself with a 13, going on 14 year old and I’m learning there’s been a lot of changed in the world of teenagerdom.

Of course, I’m not naive enough to think teenagers will remain tee-total until they’re 18, but I didn’t think it would hit my radar until around 16 years.

My daughter is being invited to a lot of parties at the moment. Parties at people’s houses seem to be the ‘in’ thing.

It’s all above board so far and we’ve had emails from the parents with all the arrangements and also to state ‘no alcohol will be served’ and it will be on a ‘strict invitation only basis’.

I thought, ‘of course there will be no alcohol, they’re 13’, but it seems necessary to clarify this because in the year above them – that’s children aged 14, going on 15 – there are parties were alcohol is made freely available.

This is underage drinking with parental consent and this concept has blown me away.

You might argue that they’ll only go out to the park and get drunk without you knowing about it so you may as well let it happen under supervision.

Yeah, you might argue this, but not all 14 year olds are going to do that. However, if you invite them to a party and offer them a drink, they’re going to find it much harder to say no. You’re saying it’s ok to do this.

The problem is not only are they allowed to it, they are drinking vodka, so they don’t even know how much alcohol they’re consuming, nor what it is doing to them. Vodka creeps up on you and one minute you’re fine, the next, you’re a gonna. We’ve all had one of those nights.

Children don’t pace themselves either.

They drink as though it’s going out of fashion and before you know it, they’re puking up in a bush somewhere in the back garden.

Children as young as 14 are boasting they got so drunk, they can’t even remember parts of the night.

I’ve been told to get over it, this is the way it is now. So I have to have conversations with my daughter every weekend about the dangers of drinking and to be careful not to accept a drink from anyone. SHE’S 13.

Parenting is hard. No one tells you just how hard it is and at every stage of your child’s life, you find you’re dealing with something that you’re really not sure how to handle.

If my daughter is invited to a party next year and the invite says there will be alcohol available, what do I do?

My instinct would be to say she can’t go and that’s not because I don’t trust her, though it will seem that way, I’m sure.

I want to say no because I don’t agree with this at all. It’s not fair to put my child in a situation where she’s the one who says no to drinking, when all her friends are likely to be trying it. It’s a big ask that will put a strain on our relationship, as well as putting pressure on her.

When I was 14, I asked my dad if I could go to the pub with my cousin. He hit the roof and I didn’t ask him again until I was 16, at which point I had to get my auntie to help out as I didn’t think he would say yes to that either.

He reluctantly gave in, but most of my friends were going out by then, so he probably felt like he had no choice but to relent. I know he didn’t like it though and both my parents told me, if I got caught drinking, it would be on my head.

Some of my friends didn’t drink when we went out. I stuck to halves of larger and lime, kept my head down and stayed out of trouble. Back then, if you didn’t look old enough, you didn’t get served and that was that.

The kids don’t have to try getting into the pubs when they’re underage anymore because they can go to these parties instead and get hammered for free. Ludicrous isn’t it?

This is what’s socially acceptable in this country, apparently. No wonder it’s in such a state.

I saw an interesting report on BBC News about how Iceland has tackled its problem of teenage drinking. Have a look at the report for yourselves and see what you think. Basically, they enforced a curfew, got parents to sign a pledge agreeing to certain ‘rules’ and gave families grants to pay for after school activities to keep the kids occupied. It’s a definite hard line, one that the Nordic countries seem to be quite good at doing. Yes, they’re small countries and much less populated than ours, but at the same time, they get stuff done. End of.

It made me think why don’t we do something like that? Can you imagine the uproar it would cause?

In this country, people don’t like being told what to do. They say it’s a democracy and they don’t want to live in a nanny state with big brother watching over their every move. The thing is though, what Iceland has done worked and that’s because everyone came together to solve what was a huge problem.

I’m so disillusioned with this country at the moment, it makes me want to move, either that or I should stop watching Panorama. What with finding out about all the money going off-shore instead of towards taxes and watching organisations sign up students to university courses that they never attend, just to get a share of their student loans, it’s seems we’ve gone fundamentally wrong somewhere.




  1. Cara

    I’ve not free across this yet but another mother told me her son in S1 (~12) had come home stoned and come home drunk. Happily my son was as stunned as I was! But it’s coming!

  2. Alice @ The Filling Glass

    I am shocked by this. I suppose I thought I had a few years yet before I worried about stuff like this but in reality I probably need to start talking about it now with my girls (aged 8) (like all the sexual exploitation stuff going on too). It’s definitely different from when I was young as well. Peer pressure has always been around but if parents are actually facilitating then that is really concerning- and probably a symptom of alcohol being seen as much more socially acceptable all round (just look at all the gin/wine mummy jokes that prevail…). I wish you luck navigating these tricky waters, just keep talking. Xx

    • Nicola Young

      I know. I don’t think it should be as socially acceptable as it is though. Four years below the legal age limit is not on. But it’s the same with every age limit. They’re watching 12 movies at 8 and 9 and 15 movies at 12. It doesn’t seem to matter what age video games as set at and Spotify songs are not filtered to remove foul language (another peeve of mine!)

  3. Maddy@writingbubble

    I’m totally with you on this – both the alcohol issue and the sense of disillusionment with our country! We definitely have a bad relationship with alcohol in the UK where there is so much drinking to get ‘vomit up your guts and forget half the night’ drunk and often its considered socially unacceptable not to drink. And now it sounds like we’re foisting our f**ked up relationship with alcohol onto our kids! Thankfully I haven’t dealt with the alcohol issue yet as may eldest is ten but for while now we’ve been debating the ethics of playing certain video games and are much more strict than many other parents – our son knows 10 year olds who play 18s! It feels like there’s so much pressure to make them grown up so fast. But with alcohol it’s so dangerous as they could undermine their health for life or even die of alcohol poisoning. Peer pressure will always be there but to have parents facilitating it is a whole other level of pressure and mixed up messages. I guess we just have to keep talking to our kids and giving them enough information and strength to make the right choices. Not easy.

    • Nicola Young

      It’s the ‘growing up too fast’ bit and what other kids are allowed to do that we’re always fighting against. When friends are doing things ours aren’t, they feel badly done to and it’s hard to stay strong. Lots of talking…

  4. Renee

    Oh honey I feel the exact same way! I have such a terrible relationship with booze, probably (in part at least) through growing up around alcoholics, and I cannot understand why anyone would think it’s okay to serve booze at a 14yo’s party. I can only assume it’s because those parents have lived such privileged lives that they can’t see the darker side of it because they’ve never had to? Makes me too sad 🙁

  5. Sara | mumturnedmom

    This is a tough one, isn’t it? I’m completely with you that 14 is FAR too young, and this is one of the occasions where I’m thankful to be in the US! Of course, underage drinking happens, but they are far stricter and as far as I’m aware, an adult knowingly allowing children to drink in their house could be charged themselves. Having said that, I was drinking at 14 and I put myself in some stupid situations well before I turned 18 and being in someone’s house, with at least some supervision, might have been safer. It’s definitely one of those situations where we have to accept that it might (will) happen and educate our kids as much as possible for when the inevitable does happen. However, I wouldn’t be sending my 14 year old to a party where alcohol was going to be offered! Thank you so much for sharing this post with The Prompt, and for all your support over the last few years, it means a lot x

  6. Marija Smits

    Totally agree with you that this is crazy. Our society needs to take a good hard look at itself and reflect on its dependency to alcohol – NOT merely foist it onto our children, fooling them with the thinking that the regular drinking/excessive drinking of alcohol is normal. I’ll definitely be doing my best to raise my children with the knowledge that alcohol, like any drug, should be approached with caution. Thanks for raising this, Nikki – I’ve shared this info. with quite a few friends now (who have young children) and they’ve been glad of being made aware of this.

    • Nicola Young

      Thanks. Just thought if this when I saw a news programme about the nhs putting on special mobile units to deal with drunk people so they don’t take up so much time for the a and e staff. Binge drinking is a big problem in this country and it’s starting earlier and earlier


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