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You're only 6, so why are we talking about champagne?

I picked up my 6-year-old son at school last week, and I asked him how his day was. His answer was a doozy: “Mom, Charlie’s parents let him drink champagne on New Year’s Eve!”

This was not our first conversation about alcohol. It first came up when he was four and Justin Bieber was arrested for DUI. In fact his entire Jr. K class was talking about Bieber’s DUI and so were the parents. The conversation arrived much earlier than we expected.

My son talks about alcohol a lot. One day at church he asked if we would be getting wine at communion. Another day he asked why I sometimes drank wine at dinner. Like many things he sees, he has all sorts of questions.

I have worked for more than two decades to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking in my professional career, and yet I found myself surprised to see the subject come up so soon and so often. Honestly, I felt unprepared to explain alcohol to my small child in his language.

Welcome to a lifetime of conversations. That’s what you need to be ready for. It’s not one big talk you have at the edge of adolescence. It starts early, and it happens in bursts throughout their childhood. There are great resources to guide you, even if you thought you knew it all already (that would be me) but clearly didn’t. Check out the #TalkEarly program at to get you started.

Now, back to “Charlie” — the 6-year-old champagne drinker. He’s also the class bully, and while this may be a tall tale, we were ready for this conversation. What’s more, my son was not impressed by Charlie’s wild New Year’s Eve. He finally (yay!) decided that Charlie wasn’t someone he wanted to hang around because he thinks that it’s really uncool to drink alcohol and that his parents made a bad choice.

You never know when “How was your day?” or “Would you like some dessert?” might lead you to a soul searching discussion and a teachable moment.

Will you be ready?

Brandy Nannini, Vice President, Government Relations & Traffic Safety,

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