How Young is Too Young to Talk About Alcohol?
We were on a drive home from one of my daughter’s many activities. Anne of Green Gables piped through the speakers in our car. Once again the little girl in the story was getting herself into a heap of trouble. This time for unknowingly serving her best friend wine when she thought she was giving her raspberry cordial.
If you aren’t familiar with the story, Anne’s friend Diane went home sick (drunk) and her mother forbid her to see Anne again.
“I didn’t mean to intoxicate her!” Anne explained in the story.
I can never quite tell how invested in the story my daughter is at any given time. Sometimes she’s asking me to pause the audio book every couple of minutes to explain a word or what’s going on. Lil’ J had been quiet in the back so I wasn’t sure if she understood what was happening, or if she was even paying attention.
So at the end of the chapter I was a little surprised when she asked. “What’s wine mama?”
The question didn’t catch me off guard given the story we were listening to, and we’ve talked about alcohol before, so I explained simply.
“It’s a drink with alcohol that adults sometimes drink.”
“Well why did it make Diane sick?”
“Well if you have too much, or if you’re too young it can make you feel really sick.”
She understood in the story the little girl drank it by mistake, but she wasn’t quite sure why Marilla had it in the home in the first place.
“Some grownups like to drink it,” I explained. “Some people like the way it tastes.”
“What does it look like?” She asked me. I described a wine bottle, and wine glasses—She’s seen them at our house because I like to drink sparkling cider out of wine glasses. I told her that we didn’t have alcohol in her house, but what it might look similar someplace else.
“If I see it, what should I do?” She started. “Should I run away?”
“No, you don’t have to do that,” I told her. “But if it’s sitting some place that a kid could accidentally drink some you should tell me and a grownup who is nearby.”
Finally she had reached a point of understanding that she was happy with.
“Ok, you can play the next chapter,” she resumed.
It’s conversations like these I hope we continue through her youth. Sincere questions met with honest answers. I want her to feel comfortable coming to me to fact-check things she hears from her friends.
This year I joined the joined the Responsibiility.org #TalkEarly ambassador team. One of our goals is to help encouraging parents to create a lifetime of conversations surrounding alcohol starting with kids as young as 6-9 years old. My daughter is right in that age where these conversations begin.
We don’t even have alcohol in our home, but that doesn’t keep questions about it from coming up.
Last year I went to a compelling summit and heard from Dr. Shefali’s who said something that really stuck with me: “Connection comes before correction, busy schedules and achievement.”
I need to make sure I’m making these connections with our children now. Listening, being honest with our answers, and being a safe haven of trust. Then hopefully years later when our milestones are much slower but our problems seem bigger, we can handle them together.
*I’m passionate about building strong relationships with our children and being there for the important conversations. That is why I partnered with #TalkEarly on this post. Stay tuned in the coming months for more on this important topic.
My son was pretty young when we first talked about alcohol. He wanted to try a sip of my beer and I had to explain why he couldn’t have it.
I don’t have children but I think that talking to them in a serious manner in middle school would be appropriate. Every child is different and I think parents know their children well enough to know when that time is.
My parents often had a beer or two at dinner or a glass of wine, or a shot of liquor. We always were allowed a sip whenever we asked for it, from a very early age. My parents never got drunk either, and would say things like, “Boy, this wine is a bit stronger than I’m used to, I’d better not finish this glass.” There are five of us, and three of us don’t drink, not out of principle, but because we never really cared about it or developed a taste for it. The other two drink occasionally, but that’s it. I think that early exposure to alcohol took away the thrill of it, and we always saw a very responsible attitude towards it. So that’s what we do with our kids too, seeing that it worked well.
We have talked about it with the kids because they see us drink wine at big family dinners. Their godparents are Italian so it’s traditional for them. We also talk about the issue of consuming too much and all the dangers associated with it.
such great things to think about and such an important topic. I love this “Connection comes before correction, busy schedules and achievement.”.
Thanks for sharing
Oh goodness. It’s so important to be open with children! And let them know the dangers associated with it. I’m sure my daughter will begin asking when she gets a little older! But it’s never too young. Children are curious.
Wow it’s awesome that the audio book brought about such a helpful conversation. I don’t remember when we talked about alcohol with the kids for the first time.
We’ve always felt that talking to them earlier about things like this is better than waiting until they’re pressured by peers. That way they are prepared ahead of time.
It’s awesome that the audio book brought about such a great discussion! I don’t remember when we talked about alcohol with my son….he doesn’t seem to care about it!
Great points on sharing with kids, I am just starting those conversations. Love too that she listens to Anne of Green Gables!
I think when a kids asks a question then it’s definitely time to get the conversation going. We are a communicating family so we talk about everything openly.
We have had so many conversations with my kids that I know my parents never brought up with me. I love explaining the world to my little ones, and even the tough topics need to be covered. I always let them lead the conversation, with them asking and then only answer what they ask. Kids will let you know when they do not need any more information. or sometimes need to process things more.
How cool that you are exposing her to this book and to the audio version. Excellent for what I would call the art of giving speeches or toast mastering. At least she asks questions. That’s great.
I remember telling my dad to take a shot of straight vodka when I was younger and he said “sure. you do one first.” I didn’t even get a full sip into my mouth before i spit it out. He knew what he was doing haha
I totally believe in open communication with our children. I would rather they have their first drink with me than at a party where they are being pressured into showing how tough they are.
It’s never too young to start building those blocks you will need later on for more in depth conversations. My daughter is going to be 22 next month and we have always talked about everything, of course, using age appropriate language. They see commercials that tell them how great drinking this or eating that or how this brand of cigarettes is better than etc… so the sooner you tackle these issues the more you have a chance at positive outcome and information retention.
I think you handled that situation beautifully! Thank you for bringing this topic up, some of my clients are also currently struggling over when it’s the right time to talk to your child about adult topics. Thank you so much for the wonderful parenting advice and I couldn’t agree with you more! 🙂