April is Alcohol Awareness Month and if you’re anything like me, you’re well aware of alcohol. But are you aware of the perceptions your kids have about alcohol? Does it come from talking to you? Watching you? Learning from their friends?
I’ll never forget when my almost one year old son received his first big Christmas gift: it was a little plastic kitchen playset. He loved the pop up toaster and the pretend faucet and he would often open and close the refrigerator.
As he got a little older and become more verbal, he role play and pretend he was getting his “beer” or “wine” out of the fridge. It was cute and funny but it also gave me pause. He listened to everything and watched everything. And his perceptions about alcohol were created from a very young age.
At the tender age of two, I didn’t really think it was appropriate to have a talk about drinking alcohol but I did tell him that maybe he shouldn’t mention beer or wine when he was playing with his kitchen set.
As he got older, he’s continued to see alcohol in the house and it’s often appealing to kids. Whether it’s a fancy, fruity drink, a bubbly Champagne, or a fun shaped wine glass, there’s inevitably the question of whether or not he can have some. And with my child, no question is ever answered with a simple yes or no.
I’m actually okay with that because it opens the door for conversation. If I say no, he wants to know why and I better be able to answer that. I keep it simple by saying it’s a grown-up drink and that it contains alcohol. Then he wants to know why he can’t drink alcohol. We talk a lot about his developing brain and how alcohol affects it.
Honestly, that idea has had the biggest impact on him. He knows he’s smart and he knows that smart can carry him a long way. He doesn’t want to do anything to put that at risk. I plan to use that strategy for as long as I can. But he’s 7 years old and being smart might not always outweigh being popular when peer pressure starts to set in. I am trying to lay the groundwork so we can keep the conversation open.
I’m actually pretty happy to see that I figured this out all by myself! If you look at the infographic below, you’ll see that I’m right on track with the age and the conversation.
We’ve actually even ventured into the territory of the word “drunk” because it’s a word he’s heard. I do my best to keep it age appropriate and say things like, “Sometimes, grown-ups drink too much alcohol and it makes their brain silly.” Or upsets their stomach. Or makes them sleepy. And that then leads to conversations about drinking and driving.
Sigh. This parenting thing is hard, right?
But at the same time I’m remembering how little my knowledge of alcohol was when I had my first drink as a senior in high school. When I went to college, I became a cliche, binge drinking on weekends and trying to figure out my limits. I went out with plenty of irresponsible people and was totally guilty of the it’ll never happen to me mentality.
I made it. I survived. But alcohol is still a part of my life. I like to drink socially. I’m knowledgeable about and enjoy drinking wine. And yes, as a parent, sometimes it’s a nice way to relax at the end of a very long day (parents – you know what I’m talking about). I’m careful about what I do, how I portray it, and the stage I’ll set for my son going forward. And as he gets older, we’ll keep the conversation going and one day when he’s of age, I hope to reminisce about how we made it through those formative years over a nice glass of wine.
As a member of the #TalkEarly parent blogger team, this post is part of a campaign sponsored by Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. All opinions are my own.