British teenagers have a drink problem. Are parents to blame, wonders father Clint Witchalls – and what can we learn from Continental families?

When I was 10 years old, my parents tried the Continental approach to teaching me and my siblings about alcohol. I remember it clearly… then not so clearly. My parents gave me, my brother and my sister a glass of wine with our Sunday lunch. It tasted pretty disgusting. Corked, I’m sure. After the meal, we headed for the garden.

“Look at me, I’m drunk,” I said, staggering across the lawn. We bumped into each other, faux-slurring, like we’d seen adults do when they’d had too much to drink. We didn’t feel tipsy enough, though, so we spun around and around until we fell down. My parents clocked this spectacle and ended the experiment. Evidently it wasn’t the right time to introduce alcohol at meal times. I couldn’t look at white wine for a long time after that without feeling ill. By my early teens, the list of drinks that made me sick just to look at included: Old Brown Sherry, Clubman Mint Punch, Vin Coco, Coco Rico and Castello Ginger Fizz (don’t ask), But, like a trooper, I persevered, getting drunk on every cheap, sweet alcoholic drink pocket money could buy.

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