As a blogger, I may be compensated in some way (either pay, product, or experience) for sharing the post below All opinions are my own. ~Heidi
A few weeks ago, I shared that NOW is the best time to talk to your kids about alcohol. In other words, talking to your kids about alcohol and having a policy in place for your child and your family is something that you don’t want to put off. Don’t assume that someone else will tell your child about alcohol and why they shouldn’t be drinking it. As parents, it is OUR responsibility to breach this subject with our kids.
Since I made that post, I’ve had several alcohol-related chats with my son.
Here are 3 things I’ve learned from my son about talking to kids about alcohol:
(Hopefully, if you haven’t had the talk with your child yet, these points will help!)
#1 Don’t be afraid that your kids don’t want to talk to you!
Research shows that kids age 8 to 11 are most receptive to parents’ input. That means that, not only do they WANT to talk to you, but they’re still very OPEN to what you have to say to them. (Older children get to a point where they are more influenced by their peers, teachers, etc. and won’t be as open to listening to what Mom and Dad have to say.)
Conversations about alcohol should start early and often, and don’t have to be one big intimidating “talk.” I have found, with my son, that it’s much simpler for him if I just start small talks here and there by asking a simple starter question to get the conversation going. This is much easier than planning a time to sit down and talk only about alcohol and it’s more personal. I asked some questions like the following (but you can use whatever works for you and your child(ren)):
- What do you think are the rules regarding alcohol use for children?
- Have any of your friends ever talked to you about alcohol?
- What have you seen on television about alcohol (on shows and/or in commercials)?
- When you are at sporting events, do you see people drinking alcohol? Do you feel they are being responsible?
#2 Underage drinking is a serious matter and carries serious risks that can negatively impact a child’s development, cause nerve cell and brain damage, preclude participation in sports and activities, and significantly increase risks for alcoholism and other abuse disorders later in life. Look at the long-term!
While many parents think alcohol is the least of their worries with their kids, underage drinking – even just a sip or on special occasions – is illegal and often opens the door to other risky behaviors. Parents need to set rules and boundaries and not stray from them. By saying something like, “It’s New Years Eve, it won’t hurt if you take just one sip,” you are essentially telling your kids that the rules don’t always apply and that you give your permission for them to occasionally stray from the rules.
Hold your ground. Say, “no!” And don’t ever, ever bend the rules!
If they stray from this rule, what other rule might be next?
I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to know that rules are rules and there are no exceptions. And, if rules are broken, there are consequences. We have explained to Ian that one wrong thing often leads to another and another and another. It’s hard to break the cycle. He understands this, as he’s experienced issues with this in other areas.
#3 As parents, we need to remember to ALWAYS be the role model.
Parents can serve as responsible role models for their children, using everyday opportunities and circumstances to discuss the risks and consequences of underage drinking. Ian knows that, at the most, we might drink one glass of wine in an evening. Being irresponsible isn’t an option, especially when you have little eyes that are watching you all the time.
For some, this might be a challenge. If that’s the case with you, maybe you should consider not having alcohol in your house and only allowing yourself to drink when you’re away from home and away from your child’s watchful eyes. Be responsible! From experience, I know that children remember the bad stuff that they see, often much more than the good stuff.
Talking to your child about alcohol might seem like a big, scary subject to breach, but it doesn’t have to be! Introduce it casually, ask questions, keep the lines of communication open (make sure your child knows you are available and approachable), and talk OFTEN!
And, if you need more help, please check out KnowWhenKnowHow.org, a site operated by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. You’ll find tips and information that will help you start (and continue) the discussion on alcohol in your family.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.