Great debate: Should alcohol be served at children's parties?



Sarah Whitehouse, mother of Liam, five, and Juno, three

I just can’t get comfortable with the thought of serving intoxicants at a children’s party. I have never done it and would certainly never do it at my children’s parties, but I am also worried about going to parties where other parents think it’s okay to serve alcohol. It’s not a children’s party then, is it? And that’s what worries me.

My children are still young but one day soon they will want to go to parties by themselves, and what then? Am I supposed to wave them off knowing that the parents there may be drunk, or are letting the children drink?

Before you think I am very conservative, I have seen fathers allow their babies to drink out of their beer bottles – how am I supposed to believe they won’t think it’s “hilarious” to let their ten-year-old son get tipsy?

This is not setting a good example to our children. Alcoholism and youth alcohol abuse is rampant in our society, and I believe we consume alcohol too freely. If you’ve seen the way alcoholism can destroy a family you might feel uncomfortable with it being on offer everywhere too.

Let’s not even talk about South Africa’s appalling road safety record. If everyone is having a drink at your party, the risk that one of the parents will drive home under the influence is just too high. I can’t bear the thought.

There’s also the safety aspect. An adult’s attention span and sense of responsibility reduce after the first or second drink. We read every day about toddlers drowning in pools at braais – I imagine alcohol is involved in at least some of those cases.

So now there is a bunch of inebriated adults at your party. And, although every parent is as tired and stressed as the next one, the “drinkers” somehow have the monopoly on relaxation.

Suddenly, the teetotallers are doing ALL the childcare and the drinkers are sitting on the stoep. It’s not fair and nothing makes me madder than bringing two children to a party but suddenly looking after six! Yes most people know their limits and behave with restraint but if I am inviting parents from school to my house I have no idea who might overstay their welcome if I serve alcohol!

It’s hard enough sometimes getting parents to RSVP, or to stick to the times of the party, imagine if you added booze to the equation. That’s just asking for trouble!


Rochelle Bantjies, mother of Michelle, nine, Carol-Ann, six and Tyrone, two

What are we, 12 years old? We are grown-ups and parents, we are legally allowed to drink, so what are we being coy about? Do you never drink when your children are around?

Or do you pretend to them that you don’t drink? I don’t. So I just think it would be hypocritical suddenly not to drink at a children’s party.

My children see me enjoying a glass of wine most nights and I hope to model for them a sensible, moderate approach to alcohol. I don’t want them to grow up thinking booze is a great big evil monster in the corner.

That just demonises a thing and therefore makes it all the more appealing to a teenager. I know that my children might experiment with excessive alcohol one day, like many young adults do. But I am hopeful that having seen responsible alcohol consumption all around them for years the chance of that is reduced.

Children’s parties are hard work. The hosts have all the usual stresses that come with hosting a party, of course. But the guests must try to make sure that their children behave, and so you’re working the whole time, too. We deserve to relax once we’ve settled the kids and everything is going smoothly.

Nobody is suggesting that you abandon responsibility for your children, Sarah, and sure, I can see how that could become a problem. But my friends and family know how to behave and that they are attending a kids’ party.

I’ve also learnt that the dads are more eager to come if they know they can bring a beer and the moms enjoy the party more if the dads are there, so everybody wins. Nobody’s saying you have to start serving brandy and Coke at 10am.

People who say, “But it’s a children’s party, you can’t have alcohol!” confuse me. We can’t separate everyone’s lives into neat parallel streams, and I for one don’t want to. It’s a children’s party but I’m there too, and I am also important!

For many of us children’s parties are the only time we get to see other adults and socialise. So I think we deserve the treat. As long as everybody is doing it more or less discreetly and in moderation, I really don’t see the harm.

How do you feel about alcohol being served at children's parties? Send us your comments to

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