90 percent of parenting is touching gross stuff. From diapers to too many turkey legs at a theme park, I spent the first ten years I had kids with a wet wipe in one hand and a bottle of disinfectant in the other.
The other ten percent of parenting is the really hard part—answering all those questions kids have. Sure, they are tricky, science-based questions when they are little. You’ve got your classic “why is the sky blue?” and the super fun one about where babies come from. (Less is more here, people.)
As they get older, kids have the kind of questions you just can’t Google a good answer for. These show their continued curiosity about the world, but what they are really asking is how they fit into that world.
As children grow they will naturally be curious about drinking. My kids have asked me some hard questions that I’ve really had to think about before answering.
Of course I feel like the way we model behavior with drinking alcohol is the right one—most people do. If I felt conflicted, it might be time to reassess my own habits. You might have different rules in your family about adults drinking, and they can be different from mine, but still good rules. With tough questions there might not be one right answer.
It’s really never too early to talk to your kids about drinking, especially about underaged drinking. Elementary age through the tween years is a perfect time. They are mature enough to discuss it, and they still care about what you say. When they are teens, it’s a natural time of pulling away from parental influence and turning more to peer approval. Don’t wait until then to have the first conversation about responsible use of alcohol.
Some Tips for Discussing Alcohol with Your Kids
Keep Lines of Communications Open
Of course ordering a beer in a bar is illegal for anyone under 21. That is the law. But, be careful when making other statements that close off questions your kids might have about alcohol. Even if you are a teetotaler or living sober, your children will be naturally curious. Don’t make them feel like they can’t talk to you about it.
Seize Teachable Moments
Look for opportunities where you can have a natural and relaxed conversation. I always loved talking to my children when we are in the car and running errands. They don’t have to make eye contact, and I know they can’t go anywhere. We’ve had some of our best talks this way. And until they are ready to tuck and roll at a red light, they are stuck talking to me in the car.
Never Too Early to Talk
I’ve said this before, but don’t wait to have one big talk about drinking with a teenager. Talk early and talk often. Your elementary-aged kids are already being exposed to ads for alcohol, especially if you watch sports. They will already be forming opinions. Be an influence on those decisions.
Find Good Resources
I don’t know all the answers. Sometimes I have to get back to my kids later about a question they have. If you need good resources, check out the tools for parents available at AskListenLearn.org. You can find out helpful tips on how to discuss drinking with your own kids.
There’s also a section for kids with games and stories of famous young role models who’ve said no to underage drinking.
You are your kids first and most powerful role model. Learn how to help them make good decisions about drinking.