Kids and Alcohol – What Are We Teaching Our Children?

Kids and Alcohol – What Are We Teaching Our Children?

By Vanessa Beddoe-Sandstrom

Last week a dear friend of mine posted a photo on her Facebook page of her very cute one-year-old looking like she was taking a sip out of an empty beer bottle. Now my friend is without doubt an amazing and extremely responsible mum, but she copped some awful flack in her comments from a Facebook friend who said in his mind this was tantamount to ‘child abuse’ and that by taking a photo she was encouraging her daughter to have an unhealthy attitude towards alcohol.

Firstly, what an inflammatory way to be defriended!  Equating this photo to child abuse is completely over the top, however, it did raise a very important question among some other friends who were following the comments, namely: 
What can we as parents do to ensure our children grow up with a healthy and responsible attitude to drinking and alcohol?
This question forced us to take a long hard look at our own behaviour and identify how we can model responsible drinking in front of our children, without having to go teetotal. Here are some ideas that came up:
1. When going to a BBQ or event determine who will be driving well beforehand and stick to it. None of this “Actually, I do feel like a wine, can you be driver instead tonight?” in front of the children. We want them to know how responsible being a sober driver is, and that you can’t just change your mind because you really feel like a drink. 
2. Try not say anything along the lines of “God, I feel like a wine or three” within earshot of children. It could send them a message that alcohol is something we need to have, or that it's an acceptable way to make ourselves feel better or relax (whether it is or not is another argument!).
3. An obvious one, but do not let children see intoxicated grown ups. If it’s acceptable for mum and dad to get drunk, then why shouldn’t they?
4. Encourage an open dialogue about alcohol. Telling kids it’s all bad and wrong may just make them want to try it more and then be secretive about it.
5. Do not celebrate drunkenness or drinking, especially when children can hear.  Remember, children are natural observers, what message is this giving them?
We would love to hear your ideas on this very important topic – please let us know in the comments below.


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