Santa’s watching this holiday season, and so are your kids

Have you ever noticed that watching is a big part of the holidays? From the Elf on the Shelf keeping an eye on little ones to carols about how Santa Claus sees you when you’re sleeping, there’s a lot of observation going on this time of year.

That includes our kids watching. I know, it makes me a little nervous, too, especially during this stressful time of year. But during our first holiday gathering this year, I remembered how our kids attention really can be a good thing.

We hosted some of our friends for dessert and cocoa. My daughter and I had fun setting up a hot chocolate bar with all kinds of yummy add-ins so each guest could have their favorite flavors. After our guests arrived, I was explaining the available options. For the adults, I noted they could make their drink into a cocktail with options peppermint schnapps and cinnamon-flavored vodka.

The younger kids quickly started closely examining the crushed candy canes, red hots and chocolate shavings. As their tween son perused his options, he asked a question.

“Who’s going to drive home?” he wondered.

He had clearly watched seen his parents handle this topic before. He knew that social drinking was something his parents did and that doing so involved a discussion about driving and making sure that they had a way to get home safely.

The parents quickly determined who would be the designated driver, and their tween grabbed a mug and got to work assembling his hot chocolate masterpiece. The adults followed suit.

Our night was full of warm cocoa, hearty laughs and many marshmallows.

“Do you like hosting so you don’t have to figure out who’s driving?” my teen daughter asked after our guests had departed and we were cleaning up.

I didn’t know that she had heard or observed that very brief interaction. Her comment reminded me that our kids are watching, even we don’t realize it.

I was grateful that our friends had set such a great example. They made it look routine and easy. It didn’t detract from any of the joy or festivities. It was a very small but very important part of a fun night.

I appreciated that my tween started the conversation. As we rinsed the dishes, we discussed the importance of designated driving and other issues around alcohol. We talked about how alcohol can be part of a festive celebration for adults, that social drinking can absolutely be done responsibly, and that hosting during the holidays involves having a variety of options for everyone as well as respecting someone’s decision to not drink.

Holiday gatherings and parties give parents some great opportunities to model responsible behavior. Kids are likely to not just do as we say, but also do as we do. Parents need to both talk the talk and then walk the walk.

Just like the Elf on the Shelf, our kids are watching. That’s true even if they act like they’re not or are rolling their eyes in their heads in a way that makes us wonder if they can see anything at all. When we address the importance of having a designated driver, and they then see us follow through and put that into action, we set a great example for them. That’s bound to up our chances of landing on Santa’s good list.

One last thought: The days after the holidays but before kids are back to school is a great time to check out Ask, Listen, Learn’s online games like Switchin’ Kitchen with your kids. Also, don’t miss the new digital resources, including a guide for parents explaining how alcohol affects the brain here.


Shannan Younger is a writer living with her husband and tween daughter in the suburbs of Chicago. She writes about parenting adventures on the blog Mom Factually and on Tween Us at ChicagoNow. She also writes at Chicago Parent and her work has been featured by the BBC, the Chicago Tribune and theFamily Online Safety Institute. Her works has also appeared on Mamapedia, The Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, Mamalode. She was honored to have essays included in the anthologies The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Female Friendship and My Other Ex and is a proud alum of the Listen to Your Mother. She is a native of Ohio who received her undergraduate and law degrees from Notre Dame.
*The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility ( or any member.*