My parents’ family has had a few alcoholics in it. My husband’s family drinks, but there is no alcoholism—people just enjoy their drinks or beer parties, among others. However, I’m quite worried that my sons, aged 13 and 11, may get drawn to drinking because of its presence around us on all social occasions and because of the genetic background from my side. What should I do?
Cheers: Keep the attitude towards alcohol real, not too glamorous.
We all have a relationship with alcohol, whether we drink or abstain, drink in moderation or excessively, take the phenomenon in our stride or see drinking as a big evil. I understand your anxiety on the issue, given the family background. In households where there is responsible social drinking—as there seems to be in your life—there is a certain ease around alcohol which, hopefully, children will pick up and carry into drinking age as a perspective. Equally, in some households, there are extreme strictures on drinking. This too sometimes works to keep children off the stuff forever, in a fearful sort of way perhaps.
However, youngsters from either end of the spectrum can get drawn into an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, especially given genetic or other social and emotional factors.
There are some broad dos and don’ts that should be followed in households and families where there is social drinking.
Some families prefer to pull out the drinks once the children have gone to their room. But nowadays, rare is the home where children sleep well before the parents. It may be a good idea to bring that separation back as far as is naturally possible.
One thing that should be strictly watched and completely discouraged is adults asking youngsters to fetch and carry—the alcohol, the soft drinks, the ice and other paraphernalia.
Alcohol should be kept away, not necessarily under lock and key, but in its own place—what I mean is, not casually here and there. This helps to send out the message to children that drinking in the family is an adult activity.
Do make it a point to have some clearly great times when there is no drinking—perhaps at a picnic or a lunch, or a brunch with your adult friends and your children. This way, children don’t associate all manner of enjoyment with the presence of alcohol.
The important thing, whether a family does not drink or whether there is social drinking in a family, is to keep the attitude to alcohol real—neither should it be an activity or topic fraught with injunctions and judgements and guilt, nor should it come across as glamorous and extremely attractive.
Gouri Dange is the author of The ABCs of Parenting.
Send your queries to Gouri at email@example.com