A U.K. mother will probably find herself on the receiving end of criticism from parents after publicly admitting to giving her children alcohol at the age of 13.
Appearing on "Good Morning Britain" recently, Shona Sibary, a mom of four, said she believes early alcohol consumption helps foster a responsible drinking mindset and environment for her children.
Sibary said her children, who are 7, 14, 16, and 18, respectively, are growing up in an alcohol-conscious environment, and defended her position, stating, "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."
Sibary said she grew up in a similar liberal drinking environment, even telling the show's hosts that her father taught her to make a gin and tonic — a lesson she would later teach her children to do for her.
After watching her mother pass away due to alcoholism, Sibary said she wanted her children to see how their bodies reacted to drinking alcohol in their home, and help them create a healthy relationship to the substance.
"Most of us drink to make ourselves feel better in the evening, but people with an alcohol problem drink to stop themselves feeling bad...There is a massive difference and my children know that difference," Sibary said.
In the U.K. the legal drinking age is 18, with laws allowing underage drinking in homes and private buildings. The BBC recently reported on a study which found that one in six parents gives their children alcohol by age 14.
The Journal of Adolescent Health reports, "Employed, more educated, and non-abstaining parents of white children were more likely to permit early adolescent drinking," with two per cent of ethnic minority parents permitting early drinking.
"Many parents may believe they are acting responsibly — but that's not backed up by research," notes the BBC.
In 2016, England's chief medical officer released new health guidelines to cut down on drinking culture. The CBC reported that men and women were recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which is about six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine. "For women, that's the same as the previous limit, issued 20 years ago. But for men, it's way down from the former recommended maximum of 21 units," noted the media outlet.
The guidelines also suggested taking some days away from alcohol during the week and spreading apart those 14 units of alcohol as opposed to drinking them all in one day.
According to the CBC, these recommended guidelines are even tougher than Canada's which recommends a maximum of 15 drinks a week for men and 10 for women.
Dr. Richard Piper also appeared on "Good Morning Britain" with Sibary, and spoke on the dangers of allowing children to drink early. "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," Piper said. Sibary disagreed, stating teenagers are "damned if they do, damned if they don't."
"What [Dr. Piper is] saying sounds great on paper and in theory but actually the reality of it is they are going to drink anyway... things are starting much earlier nowadays... my approach is... I'm teaching [the children] to do it in a responsible way," said Sibary.
To back up his argument, Piper named French culture, which is fairly liberal in terms of alcohol consumption.
"The French have historically had a very significant alcohol problem and one of the reasons for that, we suspect, is to do with the introduction of alcohol early into childhood," he said.
He also said children who start drinking at home are more likely to drink outside the home.
In addition, as reported by BBC, "Previous research has shown that those who start drinking early are more likely to do badly at school, have behaviour issues, and develop alcohol problems in adulthood."
As a precaution, medical officials recommend children to not consume alcohol until the age 15, according to the BBC.
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