Two days ago, my 8-year-old asked for a sip of my beer. We were sitting around with some friends sharing a meal, and everyone was talking about the craft beer someone had brought over. A glass was being passed around for everyone to get a sip of.
“Can I have some?” she said.
I hesitated. I want to encourage my kids to participate in adult conversations and to experiment and try new things. I think American attitudes towards alcohol are draconian and unhealthy. I was tempted to pass her the beer.
But I also want her to stay far away from booze until she’s much, much older.
In the end, I said no.
According to this post from Jezebel, I made the right call.
Also apparently an unpopular one. According to the article, 33 percent of third graders have tried alcoholic beverages. As Jezebel says, this is a little troubling because:
…over the last decade, scientists have actually found that the earlier young people begin to drink, the more likely they are to develop dependence, and dependence on any substance is strictly a not very awesome thing to have…
So great, no booze for kids. That seems like an easy rule to remember. Right up there with “no playing with matches” and “don’t run with scissors”. Right?
Maayyybe. I’m hedging my bets and not giving my kids sips of beer at the dinner table yet, but I’m not really sure that’s the deciding factor in whether or not they’ll have healthy drinking habits as adults. I have this sneaking suspicion that the behavior they see modeled by their parents and peers will have a bigger impact. It’s not like on our 21st birthdays we’re magically tapped with a fairy wand that gives us the maturity and metabolism to handle alcohol in a healthy way. We need to be prepared.
So if giving your kid a sip out of your wine glass isn’t the best path to a healthy relationship with booze, what is? Here’s some advice from MSNBC:
Parents can follow a few guidelines to broach the subject of drinking with their children, advises the Partnership for a Drug Free America. First, start the conversation with your children about alcohol by showing them you’re open-minded. Ask questions like, “Do you know anyone who drinks? What do you think about that?” Be clear with kids that you don’t want them drinking. Set limits, make rules and consequences clear to children. Finally, be honest about your own drinking history.
What this boils down to: talk to your kid about drinking the way you would about any other important subject. Be honest and open, listen to what’s going on in your child’s life, and set clear expectations. That does all sound a lot healthier and less confusing than sneaking them sips now and then while preaching the sobriety party line.
What do you think? Will you let your kids taste your grown-up drinks?