This post is part of my compensated role as a #TalkEarly blogger, an initiative from Responsibility.org. Talking with your kids about alcohol is an important topic to me which is why I accepted this role. Please note that all opinions expressed here are my own.
I’ve been talking to my son about alcohol from the moment he could comprehend what I was saying.
At two years old, I explained that the champagne on New Year’s Eve was a grown-up drink. By the time he was five years old, we were talking more about how alcohol affects growing brains like his. Now, at eight years old, we have more frank discussions about drinking too much and drinking and driving. But as the holidays roll around, kids and adults will be around more and more festive holiday libations.
Even if you don’t have alcohol in your home, kids are exposed to it with many holiday traditions. Take a few of the songs you might hear in any holiday collection, like “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” While we all thought it was hilarious in 1985 (or whenever it started on heavy rotation), thirty years later, it’s starting to grate on our nerves with lyrics we have to explain to our kids like…
She’d been drinkin’ too much egg nog
And we’d begged her not to go
But she’d left her medication
So she stumbled out the door into the snow
Now were all so proud of Grandpa
He’s been takin’ this so well
See him in there watchin’ football
Drinkin’ beer and playin’ cards with cousin Belle
And it’s not just goofy songs like that. Don’t forget about “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” Can’t you just picture Dean Martin swirling his Manhattan singing…
(My mother will start to worry) Beautiful, what’s your hurry
(My father will be pacing the floor) Listen to the fireplace roar
(So really I’d better scurry) Beautiful, please don’t hurry
(Well, maybe just half a drink more) Put some records on while I pour
And (gasp!) there’s even a reference to a cigarette in that song!
Lest you think it’s a modern affair, you’d be wrong. Even Good King Wenceslas gets in on the action…
Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.
Now, I know I’ve never sung those lyrics but it’s pretty clear that alcohol is often associated with holiday traditions and celebrations and my house is no different.
At Thanksgiving, we usually have prosecco and some wine with dinner. At our Holiday Book Club, we’ll usually drink Winter Cosmos (make with white cranberry juice). Some cold evenings, we may sit around with spiked warm cider or even a hot toddy. It sounds good to us and probably looks good to them. Let’s face it. Grown-up drinks are pretty.
So what do you do when your kid asks for a sip?
Here are three suggestions to keep everyone happy and healthy.
- Say no without hesitation. Studies show that adults who took their first drink of alcohol before the age of 15 were SEVEN TIMES more likely to experience alcohol problems as an adult than those that had their first drink at 21. (see more info below)
- Explain your answer, if necessary. Kids need boundaries and guidance but sometimes they need information too. Explain that alcohol is a grown up drink with negative affects on growing bodies and brains. Looking for more information to help you have that conversation? Responsibility.org has you covered with resources for starting conversations with kids of all ages.
- Make a kid-friendly holiday drink. If given the choice between one of my fancy alcoholic drinks or a nice mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and a candy cane as a swizzle stick, he wouldn’t think twice about my drink. Check out kid-friendly holiday drinks, like this New Year’s Eve drink for kids from my friend Sarah, and make their holiday more festive as well.
As the holidays start to gear up (yes, there are Christmas trees in all the stores now), I’d love to hear how you handle handle libations for both grown-ups and kids!