BY now most of us are aware of the negative effects of drinking too much alcohol. Indeed evidence shows an increased risk of certain cancers even in those consuming just one unit of alcohol per day. However, the misconception still abounds that drinking too much only affects the individual themselves.

According to a recent survey, worryingly Britons are intoxicated more often than those in 35 other countries across the globe, and a third of children suffer in some way due to their parents’ drinking habits.

Although problems may be greater with parents whose alcohol consumption is in the harmful range, or those dependent on alcohol, even seeing your parents occasionally tipsy or drunk can have long lasting negative effects on children.

A survey published in the journal “Alcohol and Alcoholism”, in which children between the ages of ten to 17 were interviewed, revealed concerns including receiving less attention than normal, irregular bed time hours, more chance of an argument with a parent who drinks, and the obvious worry that a parent under the influence may have very unpredictable and indeed frightening behaviour.

While these may be short term issues, with the parent often returning to an acceptable state once the effects of alcohol have worn off, children of those who drink heavily suffer a range of issues in the long term.

They may view heavy drinking as normal, and therefore struggle to understand this as a poor and harmful way of coping. If their experiences of alcohol include it being associated with verbal abuse or physical violence, they may avoid any situation with the potential for conflict, for fear of it escalating.

In contrast to their parents’ approach to life, children of heavy drinkers may become perfectionists or excessively responsible, such that they are unable to enjoy simple pleasures, viewing themselves in a very critical manner, despite often being very successful.

A great deal of confusion also abounds as to whether to introduce your children to alcohol at an earlier age, to avoid it becoming a taboo, or to wait until later.

However the website categorically states that you should delay giving your children any alcoholic beverage until they are at least 15 years old.

Early consumption is linked to increased risk of harm from all forms.

Children’s bodies and minds are still developing into their late teens and they may be very susceptible to the ill effects of even small amounts of alcohol.

The UK Government’s recommendations are that you consume no more than a maximum of 14 units most weeks, spread over the seven days, with several alcohol free days.

Most drinks containers now carry the number of units clearly labelled on the side.

An alcohol diary is a good way of keeping an honest track of your actual consumption. Any reduction should hopefully result in immediate health benefits, however if you are drinking at very high levels it is not recommended that you stop altogether or “go cold turkey”, for fear of life-threatening withdrawal symptoms including seizures.

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