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Drinking Alcohol As A Child Didn't Do Me Any Harm

One of my happiest childhood memories is sitting in the garden after a family BBQ, watching the dying coals glow under the stars next to my mum and step-dad, with a Malibu and coke in hand.
Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia via Getty Images

One of my happiest childhood memories is sitting in the garden after a family BBQ, watching the dying coals glow under the stars next to my mum and step-dad, with a Malibu and coke in hand.

I must have been about 10, because I moved out of that house when I started secondary school.

Until now, I've never really thought twice about my parents' relaxed attitudes towards alcohol.

But a survey has revealed that half of parents allow children under the age of 14 to drink alcohol at home - and it's sparked outrage left, right and centre.

Twitter is full of sanctimonious souls condemning "irresponsible parents", despite the fact that it is legal for a child aged five to 16 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises.

Meanwhile alcohol charities have urged parents to be more strict when it comes to drinking under the age of 18.

Joanna Simons, chief executive at Alcohol Concern, has warned that "the younger that children start drinking, the more likely they are to have problems with alcohol in later life", while Dr Sarah Jarvis, from Drinkaware, has said risks associated with underage drinking include "brain and liver damage, increased risk of accident and injury and potential for lower educational attainment".

When I look back on how my upbringing has affected my attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol, I can't help but think there's a little bit of scaremongering going on.

In my house, my sister and I were allowed to try a sip of my dad's beer or my mum's wine for as long as I can remember. If we liked the taste, my mum would often offer us a small glass, but more often than not we'd screw up our faces and say we'd prefer a J20.

I graduated onto (fairly weak) Malibu and coke as a preteen when I discovered a love of coconut, but I always drank around family and never went to bed pissed.

When my parents let me drink at home they weren't sending me down a slippery slope towards alcoholism, they were teaching me how to enjoy alcohol responsibly.

To me, alcohol was completely normal so I didn't feel the need to drink it as an act of rebellion in my teens.

Unlike so many of my school friends, I never got completely shit-faced in the local park and I didn't leave house parties in an ambulance.

At the age of 16, when I did want to drink at a birthday party with friends, my mum was the one who provided the alcopops.

Because she was so open about drinking, she always knew where I was and was able to tactfully provided me with WKDs - enough alcohol to be cool, but not enough to land me in hospital.

In comparison, school friends lied to their folks and convinced older friends or siblings to buy them booze. I remember one guy knocking back straight vodka, not understanding how strong it was and putting his life at risk.

Don't get me wrong, there were certainly times when I drank too much at uni, but I was always the girl holding back a friend's hair, instead of the other way around.

Today, alcohol is part of my life but I don't depend on it. I recently went to Bordeaux for a wine tasting-filled holiday because I've been brought up in a culture where good wine is something to be enjoyed, not feared or drunk until you can't see straight.

No country is entirely immune to binge-drinking, but I don't think it's a coincidence that in France, where they're known to introduce children to alcohol from a young age, adults are often said to have a healthier attitude towards alcohol than us Brits.

So if you want your child to drink alcohol responsibly, let them have the odd Malibu and coke at home under the age of 14.

It didn't do me any harm.