Managing your drinking

Children tend to become aware from an early age of their parents' drinking. This can have an effect on their own drinking behaviour later in life.

But you can help to give your child the best possible chance of developing a healthy relationship with alcohol when they are older by being aware of your own drinking, and setting an example that you would want them to follow.

How much is too much?

The UK Chief Medical Officers (the top doctors) advise that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. That means no more than five or six pints of beer or cider in any one week, or about a bottle and a half of wine. They also advise spreading your drinking over three or more days and making sure you have some alcohol-free days each week.

These guidelines are exactly that – guidelines. Drinking more than 14 units some weeks doesn’t mean you’re heading for inevitable disaster; keeping under the 14 unit threshold doesn’t guarantee you everlasting good health. But if you want to keep your risk of alcohol-related health problems to a minimum, 14 units is a sensible maximum.

If you want to check how healthy your drinking is take this quick quiz.

Take the drinking quiz

Tips for cutting back

There a few things you can do to help you cut back on your drinking:

  • Try keeping a drinks diary, jotting down how much you’re drinking, when, where, and maybe why. This will help you get a realistic picture of your drinking habits. You can use Try Dry: the Dry January app (available for Apple and Android) to do this
  • Consider taking more alcohol-free days each week. Drinking can easily become a habit if you don’t take regular breaks from it
  • Think about how much alcohol you keep in the house – if you’ve got it in the cupboard or the fridge, it’s all too easy to drink it
  • Investigate low-alcohol and alcohol-free options. Most supermarkets and quite a few pubs now offer good low-alcohol and alcohol-free options, and the quality of alcohol-free beers, ciders, wines (and even spirits!) has improved massively in the last few years. We’ve reviewed around a hundred drinks – some alcohol-free and most 0.5% ABV or less – to help you choose
  • If you go out (which may seem like a distance memory if you have a small baby), don’t let other people pressure you into drinking more, and maybe avoid drinking in rounds; and, again, keep a look-out for low-alcohol options in pubs and restaurants.

Getting some help

If you’re worried that you may be drinking too much, the first thing to remember is not to blame yourself, or anyone else. There are all sorts of reasons that any of us might get into a habit of drinking too much or too often, and recognising that things might have got out of hand is the first step to getting back on track.

You can use our online drinking quiz to get an understanding of your drinking and whether you need to reduce it. It will also help you decide whether you could benefit from speaking with your GP or your local alcohol service. There is still, unfortunately, quite a bit of stigma around visiting an alcohol support service; but the truth is that all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, use these services every year to turn their lives around. Alcohol services understand the need to be discreet, confidential, and non-judgemental. You can find out about the range of support options here.

For parents in need of support