In a "do as I say, not as I do" world, alcohol-related actions speak louder than words. Whether you never drink, occasionally have a few margaritas on girls night out, tend to have a single glass of quality wine with meals or drink something just about every night, your relationship with alcohol is a message to your kids. What message are you sending?
Not drinking at all is an absolutely valid choice, of course. But you still need to think about your relationship with alcohol. Whether you don't drink because of religious or health reasons, because you've had a problem with alcohol in the past or plain don't like it, it's still a relationship with alcohol, and it can still be problematic. Particularly if the relationship is adversarial -- if you don't believe in drinking, or have had a problem with it -- think about how you communicate that to your kids. Could you do better?
Social drinking is very common, but what kind of social drinking do you do? Does your social sipping ever slide into binge drinking -- that is, five or more drinks on one occasion? With binge drinking among teens a continued concern (24.2% of high school students reported binge drinking in the CDC's 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior) , could your occasional drinking actually be modeling inappropriate behaviors?
If you are someone who drinks alcohol regularly as a way to "relax," is that the only way your kids see you relax? Are your kids getting the message that consuming alcohol is the only way to relax? Even if your kids never see you inebriated, and you believe you are modeling appropriate alcohol use overall, this is not exactly a healthy message.
Make sure your kids see you choosing not to drink, and for no particular reason -- such as being a designated driver -- but just because. Let your kids see you making the choice not to drink as a part of modeling behaviors.
After some honest reflection, if you suspect you might have a problem with alcohol in any way, the first step is to admit there's an issue. Then get help. Start with your doctor or medical care provider. He or she can provide resources so you can address very important issue, before it becomes a bigger family issue.
As our children grow into adolescents, alcohol becomes a big issue. Make sure your relationship with alcohol is appropriate before trying to counsel your teen on drinking.
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