*This post is in partnership with Responsibility.org. I am a proud ambassador of their #TalkEarly campaign
Although most schools ended the year weeks ago, if you look at your calendar today you might see these official words:
While there is a certain comfort in the routine of the school year, I must confess that the looseness of summer break is always a welcome one for me. For my kids, summer break means staying up later, copious amounts of outside play, and a social life that’s much more adventurous than during the school year. It is also a time to really foster the “culture of conversation” we’re trying to create in our family. We have SO MANY conversations when summer time hits.
We have conversations about water safety,
about heat exhaustion,
about where sand DOES NOT BELONG,
about how just because the sun stays up later it doesn’t means kids have to,
and this summer, some conversations about alcohol and adult beverages.
My two boys are only 5 and 8 yrs old, so why alcohol? Well, my kids are a curious pair so they’ve already asked questions about adult beverages. Plus summer is the time when they see more adult beverages than the rest of the year. There are summer BBQs, 4th of July, pool parties, and lots of adults with cool refreshing adult beverages.
Some summer drinks can look incredibly appealing to kids and it’s important to me that my kids know not only that alcohol isn’t for kids but WHY it isn’t for kids. My kids are definitely big on the “why”.
Sunscreen – “Why?”
Shouldn’t have 3 ice cream cones in a row – “Why?”
Vegetables – “but WHY?”
I’m the explainer in my house. I will happily go into how many grams of sugar a little body can handle, or how alcohol can be really bad for brains that are still growing. My kids are young, so age appropriate explanations are pretty short and low pressure.
I’m also lucky that being a part of the #TalkEarly campaign has given me some great resources on how to approach some of these conversations. I even did a “pre-test” to see how much my son and some of his friends already knew about alcohol. You can see how that turned out here: How Much Do Third Graders Know About Alcohol.
I’m grateful that my children seem to feel comfortable having conversations with us about anything and everything they are curious about. We like to talk in our house, and I owe a huge part of that to my husband. He makes a concerted effort to nurture the kind of connection that makes open dialogue easy between parent and child.
That’s why it was interesting to me to read about the recent results of a three year long survey that Responsibility.org commissioned about how parents talk to their children about alcohol. The results actually showed that mothers are speaking more frequently and thoroughly with their kids about underage drinking than dads are.
- While both moms and dads report discussing getting in trouble at school in regards to underage drinking, along with its potential impact on sports team participation, moms out-talk dads in all other categories. Specifically, mothers are more likely to gravitate to topics around alcohol consumption, the potential dangers, and responsible consumption. Fathers are significantly less likely than moms to have discussed the following:
- how alcohol can interfere with judgment
- how alcohol can be included as part of a special occasion
- that alcohol is illegal if you are under 21
- the dangers of drunk driving
- that alcohol is unhealthy for a developing brain and body
- that alcohol consumption is okay for those over the age of 21 years.
As part of the #TalkEarly campaign, I encourage ALL parents to take the opportunities that present themselves this summer to talk with your kids about alcohol (at whatever level is appropriate for their age). I’ve noticed that in the absence of long school days, my kids seem to have extra free space in their brains – making them extra curious and receptive.
A few small conversations while at BBQs where adults are drinking can make a big difference. If your kids are nearing their teens, letting them overhear the grown ups plan how the adults who’ve been drinking will get responsibly home can be a powerful thing to model. If your kids are in their tween years, the Ask Listen Learn program may be a good resource for you – it includes interactive videos and games to help kids learn about the brain.
I’m going to enjoy the summer.
I’m going to enjoy my family.
I’m going to enjoy our conversations.