Being a mother, for me, did not come naturally. I was never the teenager that took on babysitting jobs, worked summer camps, and held babies all the time. I didn’t know how to hold a baby until the nurse at the hospital showed me how.
The first three days after my daughter’s birth, I was a nervous wreck. I’ll never forget the sweet delivery nurse who whispered: “Don’t worry, she won’t break, and everything can be figured out.” Such simple reassuring words to a new mom.
In the nearly ten years of being a parent, the best “parenting advice” anyone has ever given me would be from my grandmother. She told me, about eight years ago in a lucid moment from her Alzheimer’s dominated mind, to “get comfortable talking about the things that nobody wants to talk about, especially with your kids. Being open and candid in a loving way is the best way to speak to your children about life.”
Now that my oldest two kids are nearly ten and eight, I feel that it’s time to begin having some of those difficult conversations, especially about the types of things they are exposed to and most of us might see as normal, like alcohol.
April is Alcohol Responsibility Month, and I am proud to be on the #TalkEarly team this year for Responsibility.org. Part of parenting is finding the tools to raising children based on the principles that we believe in. Being mindful of the potential hazards of drinking alcohol and implementing the right language surrounding it as a part of our lifestyle is important to me.
And what better time to talk to our kids about making smart choices than Alcohol Responsibility Month? This year, my husband and I have begun to have conversations with our kids about responsible drinking, especially how to say “no” to underage drinking.
Living in New Orleans, I feel, has a way of desensitizing the issue of alcohol for many of us. There isn’t a single event, including kids’ birthday parties, that doesn’t have wine and beer, at a minimum, served. While my husband enjoys a beer on occasion, it’s been a long time since either of us has “partied like we did in 1999.”
As parents, we must feel empowered to have these type of conversations and take the “Responsibility Starts with Me” approach. Kids will believe what’s “normal” from many of their childhood experiences. Although we aren’t’ the type of parents that wind down with a glass of wine to cook dinner -mostly because he gets home late from work and alcohol gives me headaches- we both understand the need to unwind from a long day.
With three young kids and an exchange student, our house is loud, it’s busy, and evenings are quite hectic. What works for some doesn’t work for others, of course. Admittedly, it’s been a challenge to find ways for me to unwind. Most nights, when 8:30 pm rolls around, I often give my husband that look that is followed up with a sigh that says “is it bedtime yet?”
As you know, a parent’s job is never done, the piles of laundry accumulate on the sofa, emails need to be responded to from my phone, and the kitchen needs to be picked up. And then, if we are lucky, Eric and I will find ten minutes to ourselves to talk and catch up on life before going to bed.
For someone like me, who is constantly doing and creating things, it’s tough to turn my brain off. Instead of “relaxing” with a nice glass of red wine (which I can’t have because of sulfate-induced headaches) I go to bed instead, and sleep, because my body needs it.
I realize that it’s now more important than ever to be my children’s guide, their mentor, their parent. They will have many friends in their lifetime, just not me. I’m very much ok with the parental role and all the difficult conversations that will come with it.
Just because alcohol isn’t something that is often consumed at our home, I know that my kids will grow to be in situations where they’ll need to make decisions (like getting in a friend’s car after a party or not) about responsible consumption. My hope is that by having early conversations with them as kids, they’ll know how to make those life decisions on their own when I’m not around.
For this reason, I’m happily a part of the #TalkEarly team (responsibility.org) this year. I am eager to start and be a part of the conversation both at home and online surrounding alcohol – some of which I’ll be sharing with you this year. You can join the online conversation by using #StartsWithMe.
Do you have any tips for having difficult conversations with your kids, especially around alcohol?
Disclosure: From time to time, I work with awesome companies that share my values and have important messages to share. Today’s post was brought to you by #TalkEarly campaign and Responsibility.org. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that encourage my creativity.
I started having these conversations with my kids not too long ago and in the beginning they are so hard. I remember answering all these “why?” and “why not?” question. You just got to power through!
I remember my parents drinking only on rare occasions when I was growing up. I am trying to do the same to my children and teaching them the influences that alcohol might have on you.
My kids are still very young but I don’t really know when the right time is to start this conversation. How old were your kids?
I live in New Orleans too! I agree it is so hard since the kids are exposed to alcohol so frequently during festival season or just birthday parties. I might drink a glass of wine at these occasions but really try to mind them around the kids.
Communication is so important. We try and talk to our kids about these difficult topics. It gets harder and harder in their teenage years.
Great article! Being honest with your children and leading by examples are so important while raising kids.
Laura, I’ve followed you on social media for a few years and I am always inspired by your parenting. Although I don’t know you, I’ve gotten to “know you” by what you share in your blog (I promise I am not a stalker) and I am always impressed by how genuine your stories are and how you always try to help others (even through your recipe posts!). Thank you for sharing this important message. Blessings, Esther
I’ve been putting off talking to my kids about alcohol because I was embarrassed to talk to them about why we don’t have any around the house -to put it simply, their mom is a recovering alcoholic and although it’s been over 15 years (before they were born) it’s still a demon I fight. Thank you for making me see that I must talk with them not because of me but because this is a conversation I must have with them so they don’t follow in their mom’s steps.
My brother, father, and uncles are all alcoholics. My children have witnessed the horrible behavior at many family gatherings. I usually have made up an excuse for their behavior but until I read your post today, I didn’t think about exactly how to explain that they are sick. Thank you for giving me the courage to be upfront and honest with my kids about this tragic disease in our family. xoxo
Thank you for opening up with us. This is a tough subject that needs to be addressed at home and not left up to the schools to do!
We talk about it in our house. Two teenage boys and they are bound to try things when I’m not looking. I would rather have the communication lines open than to hear such sad stories as listed above. They know they can call for anything, I just pray every day that they do call if ever in a situation.
As a mom of four, my husband and I don’t find much time to go out, but we do enjoy a cocktail or two in the evenings. It is not about partying to getting drunk, but something we enjoy together, nor is it every night. Usually it is at the end of the night and after the kids go to bed, but we do drink alcohol in front of our children as well. I don’t feel it is something we should hide from them, as that would be teaching them to hide it also. Honesty is a policy in our house, and I hope my kids learn that they can be open with us as well.
Being the wife of a police officer, my girls are exposed to a lot of issues because they are constantly over hearing my husband talk about his day at work and the people he arrested for the day. They probably know more than most kids and I have to remind them daily to watch what they say to their friends. Alcohol and drugs are such a tough subject with kids. It is important for us to remind them that they can not always trust their friends and they need to remember what mom and dad taught you.
My kids are young, I don’t know when to start or how this conversation will happen. We have alcohol at all of our family functions and occasionally with dinner. Coming from a large Italian family, wine is just something the adults drink. I am glad you shared this story with us, as I will soon have to have these conversations myself.
Tip: be honest with kids. They know when mom has had “mommy juice” but let them know what it is and that it is for adults. Call it Wine, or a Martini, not a cute nickname.
I agree with this completely. Call it what it is.
Thank you for bringing this issue up. As a high school counselor, I see a lot of issues with not discussing alcohol. Just last year we had to all deal with the death of a student, after a Saturday night party, because of irresponsible drinking and driving. Shocking to many students, but not to many of us adults, we then had to have conversations to help other students deal with the loss.
If more parents talked early with their children, perhaps more deaths can be avoided. Thank you for standing up behind this great cause and speaking to your kids.
Unfortunately, this was easy for us to address. My husband’s brother died from heart trouble at the age of 30 due to genetics, but worsened by lots of drinking and smoking. Our kids really loved their uncle and his death was devastating for them. So, knowing what added to his early death, has been a way to keep them away from alcohol and smoking.
Wow, Brenda. Thank you for sharing this. How tragic for your family to have lost a loved one but definitely gives everyone perspective.
Hi Laura, I agree with you completely. We talk to our boys about those tough things in life, like alcohol and drugs. When they ask us about our lives before them, we are honest with them. It’s one of the hardest things we as parents have to do, and should do.
Thank you Annette, some of these hard conversations are the ones we must have!
Great article Laura. My advice on speaking to your kids about alcohol is “Show By Example”. Several times my husband and I will have an evening out, and if he drinks, then I drive, and I make Sure to tell my kids what I did “I told Dad he can have extra wine and I won’t drink and I will be the designated driver”. Or grandpa had too much alcohol at a party, but grandma can’t drive. We purposely made grandpa stop drinking two hours before he had to leave, drink extra water, and take a semi nap, so when he got up he was feeling better and only then did we let him go. We made sure the kids were told why Grandma and Grandpa can’t leave yet.
It’s all about setting an example in your own lives, and pointing out that drinking alcohol is for mature people who can prove that they can have alcohol responsibly, it just needs to be a conscious thought process and responsible decisions need to made around it.
I love this! Thank you so much for sharing Rashelle!!
I hardly ever drink maybe 5 drinks per year. Don’t need it and I don’t like the way I feel after. I did when I was younger like all the kids did to be social, but hardly ever now. There are far too many excessive drinkers in the U.S. which causes many accidents and deaths. Those heavy drinkers need to stay home and drink if they choose to, or take a cab, or have a designated driver. It’s becoming a real problem and I guess always has been, but getting worse.
I totally understand the drinking for social when we were younger.Terrific points!