Is that sip of alcohol safe for your child?
Posted Sunday, November 3 2013 at 00:00
Some parents claim that a little liquor is good for the child’s health. Others say it is as good as taking away the life of the young one.
Martial Magirigi took his first sip of alcohol at the age of three. From then on, he never looked back. By the time he was of age, Magirigi and alcohol were inseparable. It became his daily drink.
Like Magirigi, Betty Akankwasa, 30, was introduced to drinking at an early age. “Dad started giving me alcohol when I was four years,” she says. “Every time there was a party at home, dad would give me some Uganda Waragi to keep me awake for longer hours because the parties ended late in the night but also to make me loosen up for whenever I sipped alcohol I would dance and dad liked that.”
In some families, however, children are not allowed to drink alcohol. The adults may drink but never allow their children . They may for instance have alcoholic drinks at home stored separately from the rest of the drinks. Other parents will drink secretly so that their children never get wind of it. They will either store wines and spirits in their bedroom cabinet or drink from the bars but never in the presence of their children. “Drinking alcohol is not what I would want to expose my child to. As an adult, I’m responsible for my actions but a child doesn’t have the ability to control the effects that might come with getting drunk. So, I do everything possible to keep my child away from alcohol,” says Edith Namatovu.
While parents like Namatovu will never allow their children to even hold a bottle of alcohol, others are liberal. They have no problem with children tasting alcohol.
In such families, one might find that as the parents accompany their meals with wine or spirits, the children are encouraged to take a sip. “It could be that the adults were introduced to drinking by their parents so they do exactly the same – introduce their children to drinking,” says Theodora Niringiye, a mother and counsellor.
In such homes, children will quench their thirst with the liquor any time they wish.
Parents like Sebastian and Fiona Niwomugisha have particular reasons for letting their children sip alcohol. “You know how children can be naughty; often crying unnecessarily. You try everything and there is nothing the child really needs, maybe she just wants to sleep. So we give our little daughter bits of alcohol to help her sleep,” says Sebastian Niwomugisha. Besides helping his daughter catch sleep easily, Niwomugisha claims alcohol can be good for the health of her daughter. “Even doctors recommend it. It cures some ailments. So for us it is to help her sleep but also indirectly stimulating her body system to function well,” he claims.
However, Dr Sam Lubuulwa, a senior medical doctor at International Hospital Kampala, says alcohol is not recommended for children. “The body system for a child is just fine, it does not need alcohol,” he says, adding: “Alcohol can only be recommended for adults with complications like hypertension to help in the functioning of the heart and blood circulation.” Dr Lubuulwa maintains that alcohol should never be given to children saying that it is liquor especially with wine content that can be prescribed for adults.
Yet other parents like Kevin Obayi further argue that like it is with reproductive health, children are better off learning about drinking alcohol from their parents than learning on their own. Obayi says that he and the wife regulate what they give their son. “It is not that we give him a lot of alcohol that could make him drunk, no. We regulate what to give him, just enough.”
However, Niringiye notes that this may not be effective. “Some parents think it is better to expose their children to drinking than to totally keep them away from it. But the problem with that is that you cannot have control over it. The children may begin drinking more than you expected and become alcoholics.” Niringiye says the consequences might be that the children fail to live a meaningful life including failing to attend school.
Rosemary Kabanda, a mother of two, is against the idea of children drinking alcohol, especially when the parents are teaching their children. “If one must drink alcohol, they should keep it away from the young ones. Parents should not teach the children,” she says.