I stopped drinking when my kids were 3 years and 1 year old. I’m very proud and (frankly) humbled by the fact that they don’t remember ever seeing me drink–Lord knows that I did–but they don’t remember it.
As they’ve gotten older, I’ve had a tough time talking objectively about alcohol to them. I have pretty strong feelings about the abuse of alcohol and the flippant attitudes about alcohol use (and abuse) in our culture (perhaps you’ve noticed? Links HERE and HERE)
Here’s the thing though: I’d love nothing more than if–when my children are adults–they can go to Happy Hour with work friends and drink responsibly.
Have a glass of wine on a first date.
Go to parties and let loose (a little).
I want them to have a normal life. I don’t want the burden of alcohol hanging over their heads.
But, I also know that they have–encoded in their DNA somewhere–the potential to have a problem with alcohol. I want them to be mindful of that as opportunities to drink come flying at them from left and right as they get older.
So, I talk to them about alcohol sometimes. I want them to know that it can be a problem for some people and that they might be one of those people. But that they also might NOT be. I’ve toed the line between talking about alcohol too much and probably not enough. It’s complicated and seems premature to have these discussions, but I don’t want them to become a certain age, where alcohol is suddenly everywhere, and not know how to handle it.
I’ve talked to them about how a little alcohol isn’t always bad, but that a lot of alcohol is a really dangerous thing…not just for them, but for everyone.
As a result of my teetotaling, they see drunk people on tv and at the occasional outing and they judge them harshly. They get upset when someone accidentally sloshes a drop or two of beer on them at a baseball game or when they smell alcohol on the breath of a loved one.
For that, I feel guilty. I hate that I’ve had to turn alcohol use into a “thing” that they’re aware of, even at the tender ages of 8 and 10.
After mulling it over and over in my head for the past few years, I’ve come to the following conclusion about talking about alcohol with my kids:
I feel like it’s important to keep an open, casual dialog about alcohol going. I don’t want the topic of alcohol use to ever feel like a secret in our home. I want my kids to be able to ask me any questions that they have about alcohol; I want them to know why I don’t drink but I also want them to feel as though it’s their decision to make (when they’re old enough, obviously) as to whether or not they want to drink. I’ll also tell them that, if they find themselves having trouble moderating their alcohol use, that I’m here and will never abandon them and that we can face any problem head-on.
I think that the key is to remove the stigma of alcohol abuse and make sure that my kids know that I will support them no matter how they find a place for alcohol in their adult lives.
What about you? How do you talk about alcohol with your kids?