Is it OK to let your children see you drink?
By DR. KAREN LATIMER
I enjoy a glass of wine, sometimes two. There are nights, after work and the carpooling and getting dinner on the table and the homework help and the baths and making the next day's lunches and the bedtime routine, I just need to relax and unwind. Wine helps. When the kids were little, I could get them in bed by 7:30 – 8, and then pour a glass. Now the kids are older. They are awake most nights after I am asleep. If I can't drink in front of them, I can't drink at all.
So, is it ok to let your children see you drink?
I'm going to answer this with a resounding "yes." If I thought otherwise, I'd be spending a lot of time in the closet with a corkscrew.
Alcoholism is a disease, and it can, at least in part, be attributed to genetics. Historically, the thinking is it is passed from father to son, but new research is telling us more about the DNA link. It is more complex than having a simple gene to blame, and nurture can be just as important as nature.
Drinking in front of your kids, will not lead to problems as long as it is done maturely and responsibly.
Watch what you say. Even if you walk in the door after a long day followed by a two hour commute, it is Friday and you are craving a cold one, keep it to yourself. Talking about alcohol as a necessity or a reward, will only make your kids more curious. Pop one open, but there is no need to pull a Will Ferrell, "It is so good ... once it hits your lips, it is so good." I know you want to say it, but control yourself.
Don't drink with your underage kids. I know in Europe kids start drinking in the womb, but don't let all those healthy, well-adjusted Europeans fool you. There are studies showing the deleterious effects of alcohol on a young brain. While common opinion is it is better for kids to try it in a controlled environment, the truth is, immature bodies are not ready for alcohol. Additionally, kids who are allowed a sip are two may be more prone to binge drinking.
Don't hide it. Alcohol is a part of life for many of us. It is social, it helps us unwind, we enjoy the taste, and when consumed in moderation, can be good for our health. Do not hide your consumption from your kids. Hiding it not only undermines your role as an adult, but it can create a mystique around drinking, making it more enticing to a child.
Be a role model. Your kids will follow your lead. Drink responsibly and in moderation. Never let your kids see noticeable impairment, as this can be not only frightening for young kids, it can be empowering for teens, in a bad way. A healthy relationship with alcohol is the example you should be setting.
Talk with your kids about alcohol. You are not a hypocrite if you drink and tell your kids not to. Explain to them their brains and bodies are not ready, talk to them about the dangers of irresponsible alcohol use, especially in the short-term, which is easier for them to grasp. You are the adult. They are the children. The same rules do not apply AND you have a responsibility to demonstrate mature behavior. So you can have your martini, but you shouldn't have three.
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