In response to WaPo’s ‘What parents teach kids about drinking’
"Mommy's sippy cup" is not just the occasional quiet joke between two friends watching their kids play. Googling “mommy juice” returns 13 million results. Moms default to wine as the punchline far too often and certainly don’t recognize the damaging message it sends to their children.
Kathleen Parker reminds us that underage drinking isn't a small concern - it has to be addressed. Further, her insights about moms and their approach to wine is critical. One big talk isn't the answer, and high school isn't soon enough to start the discussion.
The answer is a parent must seek out moments for these conversations, and parents must bridge actions with words. Lots and lots of moments throughout their childhood, when you impart one fact, or belief, or experience that makes your values about alcohol clear to your children. Moments when you ask a question about your child's view on drinking.
Moments when you choose to follow "I had a hard day" with "I need to exercise," instead of "I need a drink." Moments when you see a tragedy in the news about teen drinking and share it with your child without commentary. Moments when you, another relative or any adult your child admires is having a drink as a part of dinner or any social experience.
Each time you do see adults drinking alcohol when you're with your child, use that as a reminder to ask her a question or share your value. Then, really listen to her response, keep the conversation short, and thank her for talking.
We won't be with our children when they make most of their decisions about alcohol, or other risky behaviors. For our values to have a great chance to influence our kids' behaviors, we need to keep this conversation ongoing from childhood through college. And having lots of short conversations takes the pressure off parents to try to have The Perfect Talk just once.
Ms. Parker makes the compelling case that our behaviors shape our children. Our words must as well. You may wonder what your teen will do when confronted by the opportunity to drink. Your teen should not have to wonder what you think she should do, or why.
*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 (Responsibility.org) or any Responsibility.org member.*