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#TalkEarly: How do you talk to your kids about alcohol responsibility?

by Meagan Francis on April 17, 2014

I’m proud to be partnering with #TalkEarly, a program dedicated to preventing underage drinking sponsored by FAAR (Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility).

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Earlier this month, my friends at the #TalkEarly campaign asked me to answer this question: how – and where – do you talk to your kids about drinking responsibly? 

My answer was easy: 

“All of our conversations seem to start around the dinner table – and since that’s often the time of day that Mom or Dad are enjoying an adult beverage, it’s also a great opportunity to talk about why grown-ups can do things kids can’t. It’s not because we’re mean or hypocritical: we just understand that alcohol works differently in our bodies than it does in a developing kid’s, and it’s an opportunity to make sure they understand that, too.”

I admit there are plenty of times that my kids have wanted to know why they can’t have a taste of Mom’s wine at the table. After assuring them that they are probably much happier with their milk or water, and that young tastebuds usually don’t appreciate alcoholic drinks anyway, I always make sure to emphasize that this is not a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do situation.

I like my wine with dinner and the occasional margarita when we’re out at a Mexican restaurant, and the kids have definitely seen us enjoying ourselves over drinks with family and friends, as we will be doing this weekend during a packed family party.

It’s just…not for them. 

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, or FAAR (formerly The Century Council) has a goal of inspiring 2 million conversations between parents and kids about alcohol responsibility.

I know we all want to help our kids be prepared to make good decisions regarding alcohol, but actually having the conversation can be tricky. How do we get across the point that an adult drink is OK for you, but not for them? And how do you help them understand how to handle themselves safely in a variety of situations, many of which might involve alcohol?

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Luckily, #TalkEarly has put together this super-helpful infographic with talking points for kids from ages 6 and up. I particularly like the “just like you can’t have coffee” line. There are lots of things my kids can’t have that I can, and the way I see it, that taste of wine is no different – nor should I feel any more touchy about saying “no” to the kids while indulging in a glass myself.

Parenting is tricky, and sometimes it’s not easy to know what to say  in any given situation (just ask me how calm and collected I’ve been during “sex talks.) But what I’m realizing with my kids is that even when you fumble with your words and occasionally, bungle the whole thing entirely, it’s always better to have the conversation than to say nothing at all. Kids can handle, and learn from, imperfect conversations. But silence speaks louder than words – and that’s true from a surprisingly young age.

Have you had discussions about alcohol responsibility with your kids? What language did you use?

P.S. – Last week #TalkEarly teamed up with Scholastic Parent and Child and Dr. Michelle Borba to host a Twitter party on talking to kids about alcohol responsibility. There was a lot of great wisdom shared in the chat, so if you missed it, catch up on all the helpful tweets here!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Holly April 18, 2014 at 9:51 pm

I remember asking my mom for a sip of her beer when I was about 7. Of course it was awful. As a late teenager I was allowed a sip of wine on holidays from a mini Dixie cup. We never had a talk but I also did not underage drink. The law was enough to scare me I guess! Had my first real drink on my 21st birthday.

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