Holidays are full of social gatherings. In a lot of families and communities, alcohol is a holiday staple, and even mine are no exception. Through my work as a family counselor, though, I’ve seen the affects that irresponsible drinking can have on a family. The World Health Organization states that consuming alcohol can have social consequences along with some health risks. We need to be conscious of what image we give our middle and high school children of social drinking, specifically holiday drinking.
Parents and caregivers are role models. Middle and high school students are still children who are very prone to impressions. What you do around them affects them and makes them view some behavior as appropriate (even when the behavior is not) just because they saw you do it. This holiday, let's plan for responsible social drinking that does not send a misleading message.
- The first important fact to remember is that in the U.S. you have to be 21 years or older to legally consume alcohol. Make sure that you teach that fact to your children.
- Talk to your child about responsible drinking and moderation of drinking frequently. As a role model, you can model this behavior by limiting your drinking to be safe and prevent losing control. Eat when you drink and only drink if you’re not driving. Draw attention to your responsible choices by saying, “I’ve had enough, thank you,” or “I have to drive, so no drinks for me.”
- Keep an ear out for the way you talk about alcohol drinking. Examples that can send a misleading message are “I need a drink because I had a hard day” or “I want to drink to relax.” Your child might begin to think alcohol is a cure for a hard day or a relaxant. We don’t want to teach our children to use alcohol as an emotional crutch.
- Have open lines of communication with your child to discuss questions related to alcohol. Don’t threaten them with harsh punishments in order to scare them away from drinking too young. Instead, talk to them openly about the risks of drinking and the toll it takes on a growing body and mind. Invite them to share their opinions about drinking and the opinions they’ve heard their friends express.
- Keep all alcoholic beverages in a controlled area. The harder it is to sneak a drink, the easier it is to avoid temptation.
If possible, avoid having alcohol during your holiday gatherings at all. If this isn’t possible, you can control the amount of alcohol you give your guests to prevent others from overdrinking.
There are several responsible drinking sites that provide good tips for you this holiday season. Remember that happy holidays are safe holidays!