With our alcohol-infatuated culture and society, it seems inevitable that we will need to discuss the topic of drinking with our kids. But is that the right thing to do? If so, what’s the best way to do this? How? And at what age? As a mom of three, Annie can relate….Find out what’s on Annie’s list of “do’s” and also what’s on her list of “don’ts” when discussing alcohol with your kids.
When should I start talking about it? What do I even say? I don’t want to give them too much information if they aren’t ready for it! No, it’s not the dreaded birds and the bees talk. Even more terrifying is talking to kids about drinking alcohol. Shouldn’t there be a manual for all these parenting things?
Talking To Kids About Drinking Alcohol
“Just say no” doesn’t work. It’s not practical enough, it’s not thoughtful enough and it doesn’t leave room for questions. There are, however, Dos and Don’ts when it comes to talking to kids about drinking. They need to know the real risks involved with alcohol and the effect society has on our perceptions of it. Here’s a cheat sheet on talking to kids about drinking.
- Do do it. Putting it off doesn’t make it any easier and no one says “I wish I had waited to introduce the topic.”
- Be realistic. If you approach it with the understanding that you know they might want to try drinking and these are the things they should know, rather than an ultimatum of why they should never, ever touch it, you’ll see better results.
- Talk about your personal stories and struggles – both that you’ve experienced and observed. Your experiences add value and relatability to the conversation.
- Tell them about the long term and terrifying danger that alcohol will affect their ability to enjoy existing things. Don’t sugar coat it. It is a drug. It is addictive and it can harm.
- Let them know you love them above all else and no matter what. They need to know that you’ll love them even if they make a poor choice and need to be picked up at 3 am. That you will help them through any situation without judgement or blame.
- Foster open honest communication. There should never be taboo topics for discussion in your home. Alcohol, drugs, sex – these should all be discussed honestly and openly. That will reduce the temptation and allure in many ways by eliminating the forbidden aspect of it.
Knowledge is Power
When talking to kids about drinking, remember that knowledge is power.
Let them in on a few secrets, and teach them to be conscious and aware. This is a great time to introduce mindfulness exercises if you haven’t already so they can be better in tune with what they are feeling and what influences are coming from the outside.
Educate them on the secrets of advertisers and the ridiculousness of it all. Be critical of alcohol advertisements alcohol with them and teach them how to be critical. For better sticking power, you can take it beyond alcohol advertisements to show how unrealistic advertisements are – from pharmaceutical drugs to cleaning products – marketers are selling unrealistic expectations and experiences including those around alcohol.
The most important topic to discuss is our society’s expectations of entitlement and fulfillment. We live with the most money and the most “stuff” and the highest level of entitlement. As a culture, as a society, we feel as if we deserve more. Marketers position alcohol as one of the vital ‘mores’ that we should get from life.
Children need to learn that there is never anything outside that will fill up the holes you feel inside.
Tell them, “If you have holes let’s talk about them. Let’s find ways to help, but let’s also understand that having holes is part of being human. No one has it all figured out, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
It is vital to be prepared. Think about how you plan to answer certain questions. Kids – especially teens – have an uncanny ability to tell when you are not being honest and transparent. That said, prepare but don’t let preparation be a barrier to the conversation or an excuse to put it off. The most important thing is action.
Alcohol is Addictive
This is also a great opportunity to talk about how alcohol is addictive. It’s going to change how your brain is wired and take the enjoyment from your life. A great example is this:
You have fun now without drinking, so if you ever start to think you need alcohol to have fun, remember back to this time. If you need alcohol to have fun, you’re no longer in control!
For more on talking to kids about drinking, start reading This Naked Mind!
Tune in to the complete podcast to hear the don’ts when it comes to talking to kids about drinking.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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