It’s a hotly debated topic – should we drink alcohol in front of children? I gave up drinking alcohol two days after my son was born. I went out for a huge night with my mate’s the day after he was born to ‘wet the baby’s head’ as is custom in Australia. The following day I woke up with one of the worst hangover’s imaginable and thought to myself, “enough’s enough”.
That was in 2010 and I haven’t touched a drop since. For me, giving up the drink was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. There are plenty of benefits that I’ve felt as a result, but in terms of Jack it means I don’t waste any time hungover feeling sorry for myself on the couch, and I’m never too tired to play with him because of alcohol. But does the fact I’ve given up alcohol set a good example for him?
Is it ok to drink alcohol in front of children?
The reality is the answer is yes and no. As a parent, our behaviour has an enormous influence over the way our children will grow up and act as adults, particularly during their impressionable teenage years. Kids copy their parents whether you like it or not, so it stands to reason they will also copy their attitudes to alcohol. Research shows that drinking responsibly in front of your children will model the appropriate behaviour for them, and they are more likely to grow up to drink in moderation as well.
However, there are always exceptions to the rule. My mother hardly ever drank as I was growing up (I didn’t live with my dad), yet I grew up to enjoy a beer or 15 with my mates nearly every weekend during my twenties! Absolute madness upon reflection…
What can you do to teach your children to respect alcohol?
- Talk to them – Open and honest discussion is the best way to teach your children anything, so talk to them about alcohol and its affects. Tell them what happens to their bodies if they binge drink, how to go out and have fun without drinking, and how to drink responsibly. Explain that different types of alcohol have different strengths, and too much can have disastrous consequences. Better to find out from you than experimenting in a park somewhere with their equally inexperienced friends.
- Be a responsible drinker in the home – Show them through your actions that drinking in moderation, according to the Australian guidelines, is the best way to enjoy alcohol without going overboard.
- Be a responsible parent – It’s ok to drink at home, and at the same time tell your kids they can’t. Apart from the fact it’s illegal, growing bodies can do without the dangerous affects alcohol can have on them. Set the ground rules for drinking at home, with the number one being ‘if you’re not 18, you’re not drinking’.
- Be honest with your kids – If you’ve got a hangover, don’t pretend that you don’t or try and hide it if your kids call you out on it. Own it, explain that it’s what happens when you drink to much, and it’s how they will feel if they drink too much. After all, if an experienced drinking adult can feel this way after a few too many drinks, imagine the consequences for a young inexperienced drinker if they have too many.
Which way should you go – to drink or not to drink?
It’s fair to say the decision to drink alcohol in front of children is totally up to you. If a non-drinker tells you you’re doing the wrong thing because you enjoy a responsible drink in front of your kids, just tell them to “speak to the hand because the face ain’t listening”! If you don’t drink in front of your children, or if you drink responsibly, you’re both equally right.
However, I think it’s fair to say that getting hammered while the kids are around is irresponsible parenting. In my opinion getting hammered regardless is pretty crazy for all sorts of reasons, but once you model that behaviour to kids, then you might want to have a good think about the kind of adults you want your children to become.