When our kids are younger, we do everything we can…
Dear Dr. JPL: Many family celebrations, including births, birthdays, holidays, weddings, even funerals, tend to include serving alcohol for the adults as a way of “celebrating.” There is not an abuse of the alcohol, but it is a key ingredient in the celebration. How do you teach your children that alcohol is not a necessity to celebrate when their adult relatives and friends consistently send a different message?
Every lesson with your children begins with a discussion. A good way to start is to ask for your child’s opinion about what he thinks about alcohol and celebrations. One major point to hit is that alcohol is for adults. Young bodies and brains do not respond the same way to alcohol as adults do.
Another important message to send is that alcohol may be part of a celebration but it is not the focus. We don’t blow out the candles in the wine bottle, but we do ooh and ahh over the cake and other food.
It is also important to answer the questions your children may be likely to ask if a friend or relative’s behavior suggests that they had one too many. Use these moments as an opportunity to highlight the negatives associated with drinking too much. Observed behavior can have a strong impact on your child especially when the behavior is exhibited by a loved one. By watching the negative consequences associated with drinking too much (e.g. acting in inappropriate and/or embarrassing ways, getting sick, and/or passing out) your children may learn an important lesson that will help them make better choices for themselves as they get older.
Also remember your children learn not only from what you say, but what you do. If you go out of your way to exclude alcohol from some of your celebrations you will reinforce your own thoughts and values regarding this issue.
ASK DR. JPL: Have a question about your own teen and alcohol? Ask our resident tween, teen and parenting expert, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder Psy.D, to help you have The Alcohol Talk with your child. Submit your questions on the Ask Dr. JPL page of this blog. Dr. JPL may answer your question on the blog to help other parents address similar issues with their children.