Monday, November 23, 2015

Should you give kids just a sip?

I’m very happy to be part of #TalkEarly’s blogger team this year, working to encourage families to have a lifetime of open and honest conversations with their kids about alcohol and making healthy choices.

The holidays are officially upon us and with that time comes entertaining, parties, and the toasting of all we have to be grateful for. For a lot of families, including mine, it may also be a time of year where our kids see us drinking socially more than we normally do. Upon watching the adults in their life enjoy themselves with a drink and friends or seeing champagne fizzle in a  glass, it may lead to the following question:

Can I have a sip?

I’ve always said yes, as my desire was to de-mystify alcohol and drinking and be as transparent as possible with my kids about all of it. It’s also what my parents did with me. And what their parents did with them. My mom and dad also spent time in Europe right before I was born and they felt that the laid-back, no-nonsense attitude towards drinking they saw there (particularly in regards to kids and young people) made a lot of sense. 

It’s also worth noting that on the handful of occasions over the past twelve years where my kids have had a sip of my drink, they have universally thought it tasted gross and not asked again. I never questioned the decision to let them have a sip, not one single time, until this weekend. 

Knowing I had to write about this topic, I had asked my children (ages 12, 10 & 7) about what they thought about kids having a sip to see what adult drinks taste like. I thought we’d all be on the same page, since we’ve spent a lot of time talking about this subject. I was wrong. What surprised me about our conversation was the degree to which it caused me to have clarify the off-limits nature of alcohol for kids. 

The last thing I expected, especially among my kids, was the notion that because I let them have a tiny sip one time that somehow alcoholic beverages weren’t forbidden to them in all other respects. It almost sounds silly for me to have blind-sided by their take on it. My kids are rule-followers. They’re still at an age where the world is pretty back and white and by saying they could have a tiny sip, I was opening the door. I was making alcohol gray. 

I just assumed that they understood that the answer was always no. That having a tiny sip of my wine at Christmas dinner didn’t change that rule. My children however, had a difficult time reconciling how something that I told them was dangerous for kids was somehow ok for them to try at a holiday get together. Their thought process was - so it’s not actually that bad, right, or you wouldn’t let me have it? I discussed how adult bodies metabolize alcohol differently than kid bodies, that making moderate choices lets us enjoy drinking in healthy way as adults, things we’d discussed before. They just looked at me, eyebrows raised. I started sputtering about kids in France and they just blinked a few times. 

I don’t know if I’ve gotten this one right or not. I do know that the subject was ripe for clarification and discussion, and I didn’t even know it. I’m so glad I asked them how they felt about everything before all the holiday festivities begin in earnest this year. And the next time they ask me, can I have a sip, I’m probably going to say no. 

This post is sponsored by as part of their #TalkEarly campaigns, encouraging families to talk early, talk often, and be healthy. All the opinions are my own because no one is the boss of me. I'm very proud to be part of the #TalkEarly blogger team this year. 

(c) Mommyland Blogs 2013-2015

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  1. My parents always gave us a sip when we were little and when I was in high school, I would get a small glass of wine at dinner with my family. Outside of drinking with my family, I never drank in high school. In college, I never got drunk. I never thought alcohol was some cool thing. It was casual and I never had any desire to binge drink or get drunk. I have lived in Europe and the American attitude is toxic.

  2. At my grandparents, everyone drank when we toasted at Christmas. And at my other grandparents, I think the drinking age was 8. Seemed to depend on the kid.

    It really DID demystify alcohol for me, same as the way my parents treated it on an everyday basis. When I was sick, I had hot toddies and though I scorned Southern Comfort whiskey, I had to admit that it was good in toddies. I was seven. I also know the first time I got drunk was when my parents left me with my uncle, told him to rub a little Jack Daniels on my gums if I was fussy (I was teething with a fury) and came home to me passed out. My uncle's famous response: "I thought she'd know when she'd had enough."

    Drinking and drunkness weren't mysterious to me, and neither was drinking and NOT being drunk. Alcoholism ran rampant on both sides of my family, something I was very aware of. Moderation comes very naturally to me. Naturally enough that when asked if I'd had any of the wine when I was a teenager, I would have said yes without hesitation, had I done it. (I hadn't; my dad was struggling with the whole moderation thing at the time)

    Now, I married a very Aspie man who doesn't drink, not because he's diabetic and it's bad for his sugars, but because "he doesn't like how it tastes." Wuss. And I have a very Aspie daughter who is very black and white about alcohol being a very bad thing.

    *shrug* Not only should kids have a sip, they should have a *small* glass when it comes time to toast. The adults or older kids will finish off what they don't and it's much more effective when they have THEIR OWN at a special occasion rather than a sip from someone else's glass.

    I agree, the European attitude is much better than the American attitude.

  3. I let my daughter have a sip every now and then, but we also talk about responsible drinking and that it is only for adults. I agree that letting them have a taste in a controlled environment does take some of the sparkle off of the idea of drinking. We have had a lot of discussions over the years about what responsible drinking is and that it is for adults only and why.

  4. In France, it's not only that we let kids have a sip. We also truly believe that alcohol is not a simple black or white, yes or no, issue. Alcohol is not completely off-limits but like many things, it's OK only when parents are around to set the limits. And clearly too much alcohol is off-limits. Like there is a bedtime but sometimes you can stand up later; or we eat at meals, but sometimes you can have a snack. So no wonder your kids don't think alcohol is 'bad' for kids; ours don't think it either. They just know that alcohol is something that only their parents can decide for them, until they are able to make the right choices by themselves.
    I think that talking with your kids about how they felt about it was an excellent decision, and as their parent, you will know what you can let them do, in keeping with your beliefs and values.




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