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Wondering The Best Way To Discuss Alcohol With Your Child?

Tackling tough topics is never easy, but how do you discuss alcohol with your child?Talking to your child, tween, or even teen about drinking alcohol, especially if you drink alcohol, is one of the most ahem loaded conversations you can have.

But it's never too late (or early!) to start. Especially if you're around regular drinkers, even just casual ones. If you don't have honest conversations, all your child sees are double standards and unclear expectations around drinking alcohol. That whole don't drink as you drink thing, you know?

A couple of the many ways my tween has (rightfully!) questioned the double standards around drinking alcohol:

Me: It’s about making smart decisions.

My kid: So Anna’s dad is stupid? Because I think he was drunk at the birthday party.

Me: Uh, no. Anna’s dad is, like, an actual genius. 

My kid: That makes zero sense.

Me: Alcohol tastes bad.

My kid: But you told Dad that was the best wine you’ve ever had, remember?

Me: Well, yeah, but drinking is bad for you.

My kid: If it’s bad for you, why are you doing it?

have you heard of cognitive dissonance?

Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when a person holds two or more conflicting beliefs, attitudes, or values, and experiences mental discomfort or tension as a result.

In the context of alcohol, cognitive dissonance may arise when someone knows that alcohol consumption is harmful to their health or well-being, but continues to drink despite this knowledge. Yes, even one glass (stay with me).

To reduce the discomfort caused by the conflict between their behavior and beliefs, you rationalize the drinking by minimizing the risks or emphasizing the benefits, such as socializing or stress relief. This can lead to a cycle of denial and self-justification, making it harder to change drinking habits even if you want to. 

Even if it's "just one drink." Because it's not.

And your kids are watching. No judgement, just fact.

discuss alcohol with your child why happy hour when alcohol is a depressant

Discuss Alcohol With Your Tween or Avoid It?

Ugh, the hypocrisy of the conversation and actions around alcohol. The truth is that what we tell our kids about alcohol and what we do around alcohol are too often polar opposites. 

This is bad for you, as we sip our craft beer. 
Drinking and driving will kill someone. "Okay, I'll just have a bit more."

As I explored having more honest conversations with my daughter around the topics of alcohol and drinking, it quickly became obvious that the whole strict-parent do-as-say-not-as-I-do thing wouldn’t cut it. 

She could sense the appeal alcohol held for adults.

So I started pointing out the double standards of drinking — to myself! 

And then I started pointing them out to her. 

In passing, not in any big-talk kind of way, but just when it came up. My tween would giggle and, if she continued the conversation, off we went.

A Few Double Standards Of Drinking You Can Point Out To Your Child About Alcohol
  • Driving past an all-day happy hour sign, I’d wonder aloud why they call it happy hour when alcohol is a depressant (yes, even just one).
  • Seeing another parent drink too much, I'd mention it at home later. "Wow, Anna's dad drank too much tonight! It happens sometimes but it's weird, right?" (The relief that I noticed was obvious.)
  • A mention that: Did you know alcohol is made from ethanol, which is what we fuel our cars with? I'm basically drinking gas when I drink wine (or any alcohol), which is really gross when you think about it. 

Baby Steps To Big Discussions

Laughing makes it so much easier to discuss alcohol with your tween. And pointing out the double standards around drinking alcohol allow us to more deeply explore our perceptions and beliefs around the culture of drinking.

This isn't just about them — it's about us, too.

7 ways to discuss alcohol with your child easy conversation starters

8 Conversation Starters To discuss Alcohol With Your Child

Here are 9 double-standards you can point out as you start to discuss alcohol with your tween. Just casually mention it.

Driving by an ad with alcohol in it or walking past a restaurant advertising happy hour is always a great time to bring it up!

Why Do We drink it when it tastes bad? 

It's like voluntarily drinking the sweat of a gym sock. Alcohol actually tastes pretty awful. So much so we had to train our bodies to like it way back when we first started drinking. [Note: This where my tween gasped and exclaimed, "But you LOVE wine!" — ouch] But I had to teach myself to like it. No one puts this kind of effort into liking brussel sprouts. No one.

Why is alcohol EVERYWHERE?

It's like an all-knowing overlord that we pour out our problems to. If we're happy, we pour a drink. If we're sad, we pour a drink. If we're bored, we pour a drink. If we're overworked, we pour a drink. If we're upset, we pour a drink. Isn't that kind of weird? It's like alcohol is more important than the feelings sometimes.

We pay to poison ourselves?!

 When we drink alcohol, we knowingly ingest poison. AND PAY FOR THE PRIVILEGE. Think about that. We choose to put a toxin in our body, closely related to fuel, that causes cancer, and adults happily pay to do it. Imagine if I handed you a drink and told you it would make your brain work slower and your body feel awful. How mad would you be if I then asked for payment for it!? Sheesh.

Do WE Need Alcohol To Socialize?

Many people feel like they need a drink to loosen up and have fun in social situations. But is that really true? Are grown-ups unable to enjoy life without alcohol? It's like we need liquid courage to be ourselves, like we're some kind of social superheroes who can only fly when drunk. I wonder how people who don't drink feel about socializing?

discuss alcohol with your tween why is a happy hour called that (1)

Why Do we Glamorize Alcohol?

Why do we glamorize alcohol in media and pop culture? From TV shows to movies to music, alcohol is often portrayed as cool, sophisticated, and glamorous. But in reality, drinking too much can have serious consequences and is rarely all that it's cracked up to be. It's like when you're trying to look cool by leaning against a wall, but you accidentally knock over a vase and everyone stares at you.

Are We being judgy?

We often make assumptions about people based on how much or how little they drink. But someone's drinking habits do not define their character or worth as a person. It's like judging a book by its cover, or a cake by its icing. You might be surprised by what's inside, so while it's not our job to judge, hopefully we can take some inspiration from what we like and don't like about drinkers in our lives.

Does everyone drink?

 I always assumed that everyone around me drank alcohol like I did, which can create pressure to conform to social norms. However, not everyone drinks (63% of adults in the U.S.A. do, according to Gallup) and it's important to respect that. It's like when you're the only one in a group who doesn't know the latest dance move, but you try to fake it anyway and end up looking like a flamingo on roller skates.

What are we like when drinking? 

When you discuss alcohol with your tween, ask them what adults are like when they're drinking, even just at dinner. The response is almost always, "Boring!" or, "Loud. All you do is talk." We are not nearly as witty and entertaining as the other drinkers have led us to believe.

Do It! Discuss Alcohol With Your Tween

Talking to your tween about alcohol can be a difficult conversation, but using humor and pointing out the double standards around drinking can help make the conversation easier and more engaging. 

Because they've already noticed the double standards around drinking if you drink around them. 

But by exploring the deeper reasons why we drink and the ways in which alcohol is often normalized and glamorized in our society, we can encourage our tweens to think critically about their own choices and develop healthier attitudes towards alcohol. 

And remember, by promoting honesty and openness around the topic of alcohol, we can help our tweens make informed decisions that will benefit their health and well-being in the long run.

Whether or not they choose to drink one day.

Discuss Alcohol with your Child 8 easy conversation starters
  • Just read this insightful article on discussing alcohol with tweens. It provides practical advice and valuable insights. Parenting is challenging, and articles like these make the journey a bit easier. Thanks for the guidance!

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