We are often invited to parties where alcohol is served in the kids’ presence. Some of us have these get-togethers at home too. And whether we pick that glass of wine or stick to ‘No alcohol’ in front of kids promise; we often wonder at the choices of the parent on the other side of the fence; wondering if they are too boring or too careless!
While acceptance to alcohol has risen recently and It is now alright for people to offer it to house guests with kids around or have it casually with dinner, but even then in most of the households (especially in India), it is still uncommon to see a bar in the house. In many joint families, the alcohol isn’t encouraged or consumed in front of the elders. Alcohol is still something that is generally kept hidden in cupboards only to take out when our parents or the kids are out of the house! But I often wonder if that is, us being the moral guardians of the culture, respect or just following what we’ve been seeing our elders doing or not doing?
I would like to ask you all a question. How many of you saw your parents drinking regularly while growing up? and if you didn’t see them drinking more than occasionally? do you still drink? if yes, do you drink more than occasionally? if yes, then the theory that suggests about parents being the strongest influence on whether children will drink or not, may not be entirely true.
The opinions of parents on drinking or not drinking in front of the children are quite contrary. A few think it is absolutely unacceptable to drink in front of their children since it will show their dependency on the alcohol, which children would follow eventually and it will also make drinking sort of ‘acceptable!’ however the other set of parents feel that it is important to model responsible drinking and if we as parents are not going to teach them how to drink and how much to drink, who will? It is better for them to see their parents drinking responsibly than learning from their friends or their older siblings.
It is again about making a choice. If you enjoy your drink, you don’t need to give it up just because you are a parent now. But you certainly don’t want to present the image of a dad who comes home every day and has only his drinks to unwind. You also don’t need to teach that alcohol in all sense is bad ( unless you believe so!) but teach them theright way and the right age to have their first drink, which should ideally be the permissible age in your city or country.
It is also largely dependent on how old your children are. A few parents of 5-6-year-olds confessed that they mix their drink with juice or soft drink to avoid questions. It is a smart strategy but parents shouldn’t assume that the children never notice. And if you have teenagers then it is always good to have an open conversation around alcohol without hiding it. For instance, why he/she can’t have their first drink before they reach the legal age. It is useful to explain that alcohol is only for adults because their bodies have finished growing, and how before their right age it can hamper their physical and mental growth. You can further share your rules about drinking and how you make sure you are never over doing it or never driving after drinking! basically opening the line of communication with your teenage son or daughter so they can talk to you and not a friend who is definitely not the right person about the ill-effects of alcohol.
Also, remember that your child can always ask you about the age when you had your first drink and if it was way below the right age; please understand that in very few cases, “honesty may not be the best policy!” Tell them that you did stick to the age rule! Yes, you can always make a confession later over a drink 🙂 The children should also be told that the research suggests that young people who start drinking at an early age drink more, and more often, than those who delay their first drink ( it is a valid research!). So tell them that it is a good idea to delay their first drink as much as they can since it will lower their dependency on alcohol in the long run! In most cases sticking to the legal age for starting to drink is the best way to go.
The parenting in today’s age and time has different pressures and challenges from what our parents had faced and we cannot and should not sweep issues which may negatively affect our children under the carpet. To deal with such challenges one needs to stay informed and updated. Parenting is not same for everyone! Each home has it’s unique value system and it is our duty that the child learns to respect that, which is why it is important to have open communications along with rules about drinking!
Good points on a controversial topic. Would like to share some thoughts. Underage drinking and possession of alcohol is banned in several countries including India and US and what do we see in all the Hollywood blockbusters that high-school kids have an alcohol binge party as soon as they are alone at home and then getting into trouble. In India the society fabric will not allow a frat party because of neighbors being the watch dogs so kids head out to a social place and do the same. And then there is France, where the legal drinking age is 16 as compared to 21 in US or India and alcoholism is a smaller issue in France. Now this might go contrary of the thought of “delay your first drink otherwise you will grow to be an alcoholic” but the reason being that even with 16, French have their first drink even earlier with parents at home and is not looked down upon. It is like a forbidden fruit in India and US and we all know that anything forbidden becomes a cherish. Well, much more can be written and debated/discussed but I agree with one thing for sure: if not parents, then who else to teach how to enjoy responsibly.