What You Say When Your 9-Year-Old Asks For A Beer
Although it happened six or seven years ago now, I will never forget the day my daughter made my jaw drop with a single question.
“When do I get to have a beer?” our almost ten-year-old daughter asked as we were standing in the line for $5 beers on a gorgeous first day of fall that also marked the last Washington Nationals game of the season. Looking her in the eyes, I said very matter-of-factly, “Alcohol is dangerous for growing bodies and against the law until you’re 21. Why?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know,” she replied. “Just thought I’d ask. Can I have some coffee instead?”
The answer was still no, but I knew she was testing me, wondering what I would say in this particular situation in a place where alcohol is prevalent and often regarded as part of baseball culture along with peanuts and hot dogs. I could have shut her down with a simple “no” or a lecture but instead used the knowledge I had from working with Responsibility.org to start a conversation about alcohol at this early age. Responsibility.org’s resources empower parents to be confident about decisions regarding alcohol, modeling healthy and balanced behaviors, and also creating a foundation for starting conversations with their kids from an early age.
Why did I up the topic of drinking when my kids were still in elementary school? The answer is simple: our kids had already started to ask us about alcohol. It’s a topic that comes up not only when we’re at sporting events but also out to dinner. As a fan of seizing teachable moments and having age appropriate conversations with kids about important topics, there’s no time like the present to talk to them about alcohol and underage drinking especially if they’re the ones bringing it up. And now that my kids are older than that sweet and sassy nine-year old, modeling responsible behavior and talking to kids often about alcohol are more important than ever.
I often recall one of the first #TalkEarly Summits I attended in 2013. We heard from Dr. Tony Wolf who encouraged us to approach a variety of topics in a matter of fact way that all parents can identify with. As the father of two grown children, he’d talked the talk and walked the walk with his own kids.
Talking about topics like alcohol can seem daunting if your kids aren’t already bringing it up themselves like mine did. Dr. Wolf provided these six tips, and although this was a few years ago, I think they still ring true:
- Make sure it isn’t a wonderful teaching moment just for you – this should be a conversation that relates to what’s going on in their lives.
- Keep the conversation fairly short and swift. Your kids are listening, but they don’t want the convo to linger!
- Think in advance about the point you want to get et across, such as drinking alcohol isn’t good for a growing body, growing brain or healthy lifestyle.
- Be prepared for questions from kids like “why do people drink if it tastes gross?” or “Sandra said her brother drinks every weekend.”
- Be honest, but decide in advance how revealing you want to be – be genuine
- Talk to them in an adult manner, not in the mommy/daddy voice.
While it’s easier to talk to my kids now because they’re at an age when they’re receptive to information, I fully acknowledge that they won’t always want to hear what I have to say about alcohol or anything else. And it may be hard to believe, but your kids ARE listening. So keep talking. Parents are the #1 influence on their kids’ decision to drink—or not to drink—alcohol. SO we owe it to ourselves and to them to keep the conversations flowing.