Talking to Your Kids About Drinking #TalkEarly

Thanks to the Century Council, I am taking a little trip back in time…
Talking to your kids about drinking

This is a story I wrote when I was 17 years old with the title, The Party:

The shrill laughter enveloped me in a foggy cloud.  I tried to ease away, but it held me tight.  I moved closer to him.  He tried to get my mind on something else.  Yet the clanging laughter and gargled words held my attention.  I watched as exaggerated actions and perverted sayings entertained the blobs strewn across the living room floor.

The TV blared commercial jingles and strains of “Aren’t you hungry…” filled what space was left in my jumbled thoughts.  A drink spilled across the beige shag carpet, followed by peals of endless laughter.  Everything seemed larger, movements more pronounced, and the laughter was unbearably loud.  I tried to collect my thoughts, but the confusion around me just invaded them.

As the radio projected the last strains of a popular upbeat song and introduced a ballad, I sensed a change of mood in the room.  Hyperactivity was replaced by mellowness.  I turned away.  He noticed it.  Slowly he eased out of the overstuffed chair that we shared.  He stood carefully selecting a place for each foot amidst crushed cans, human limbs, and empty bottles.  In the corner, a grandfather clock  pronounced  the hour in one long chime.  Nodding, he took my hand and helped me up.

He opened the door.  Walking through it made me feel at peace.  I was walking out of a world of confusion and chaos.

The cold stillness of the night welcomed me.  I smiled and looked into his questioning eyes.  We started to walk, but the sharp chillness forced us to turn back.  He hesitated at the door and gave my hand a squeeze.  Trying to be reassuring, I laughed and said that I would be fine.  He recognized the facade, yet led me inside.

Reluctantly, I looked back over reality.  My mind was again invaded by the cacophony.

We made our way over to the television.  It had been on for hours, yet no one watched.  After taking a random survey of the channels, I picked up the TV Guide.  Nothing interested me except the half completed cross word puzzle on the final page.  I stumbled back to the overstuffed chair that he already occupied.

“Five letter word meaning boring,” I giggled as I dropped next to him.

“Drunk,” he replied, motioning to the beings who had now started calming down.

I grinned as I looked across the room.  it was all so ridiculous.  A few hours before they had been my friends.  Now they were just blobs exhausted by exaggerated life.

We finished the crossword puzzle, and consumed the refrigerator’s supply of Cherry Coke.  We talked.  The conversation drifted.  The minutes progressed.  The mannequins merely existed.  The grandfather clock struck three.

“Want a sip?” he questioned as he placed a citrus wine cooler in my hand.

“No thanks,” I answered automatically.

“You haven’t had anything all night, have you!”  He stated it in amazement.

“Nope.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Fifty dollars.”

“For what?”

“I made a bet with a friend back home, it’s worth fifty dollars to me.”

Then glancing to the floor, I realized it was worth a lot more.

Now I am a parent.  It would be great to be able to hand over this lesson to my kids so they don’t have to learn it for themselves…unfortunately, life isn’t that easy!

talking to kids about drinking

Talking to Kids About Drinking

I had the amazing experience to sit in on a webinar last week with Dr. Anthony Wolf as he spoke about how to talk to your kids about the issue of alcohol.

Dr. Anthony Wolf has written a number of books that you would recognize like I’d Listen to My Parents if They’d Just Shut Up  and is the father of two ex-teenagers.  He has some insights into what he calls a “temporary allergy” that kids develop to their parents through the teen years.

He explained how in the teen/tween years kids are fighting for independence and react in different ways – many girls get confrontational and chatty while many boys get quiet and may isolate themselves in their room.  This is a normal stage, but can be challenging for caring parents to know what to do!

Underage drinking is a big issue for teens and the more parents can show they care {even when they think the kids aren’t listening}, the better the outcome.

Here are some of the things that Dr. Wolf said that I found helpful:

  • Keep trying to talk to your kids even if you find they are talking back or twisting it into a confrontation.
  • Parents underestimate how much their kids listen!
  • Teens are still very attached to their parents, but keep it secret!
  • When a parent communicates that they love the child and don’t want them to drink, it is powerful.
  • Being ambivalent about the issue with your kids can give the signal that it is OK.
  • The issue of teen drinking goes beyond the dangers of alcohol and driving and extend into:  risk of pregnancy, STDs, violence, etc.

“When a teen turns to drinking for fun, they develop a pattern and don’t know how to find fun outside of drinking.”  -Dr. Wolfe

What can a parent do?

  • Use resources like The Century Council’s website  or the Ask, Listen, Learn site to get ready for your kid’s questions.
  • Get kids full attention before chatting about it.
  • Rise above the attitude.
  • Start the conversation in a straightforward way, “I want to talk to you about drinking…”
  • Ask questions to keep the conversation going.

One thing that I thought was interesting was that Dr. Wolfe said that when kids make excuses for not drinking to their friends, it could lead to problems for them in the future.  A more positive way of saying NO is by learning how to say no.

Once a teen successfully says no the first time, it will get easier.  Often friends won’t even care and will stop pressuring them to drink.  That was my experience.  Once I said no the first time, it wasn’t any big deal to repeat it.  I offered self-deprecating  overstatements with a little humor involved to get through those situations.  Turns out my friends really didn’t care.  In fact, some of them even admired me for it.

The bottom line is that your kids are going to face this decision.  I suspect that my parents would be a little shocked at how early I encountered it in a very sheltered life.

Talk to your kids.  Let them know that you love them.  Let them use you as a resource.

I wrote this sponsored post as paft of The Century Council’s #TalkEarly program.  There is a twitter party on Wednesday, April 17 at 12p CDT with that hashtag that will further explore help for parents facing this issue with their kids.  I will be there and hope you will too!

Thanks so much to The Century Council for helping me learn more about this important issue.  All opinions expressed are mine.

One Comment

  1. Amber Seymore says:

    Great post Holly!!! These are some good tips and I must say I love your article you wrote at 17.

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