I cannot control what my daughter wants to be when she grows up.
I cannot control her fashion preferences.
I cannot control her school grades.
What I can do as a parent is provide a foundation for lifetime of healthy habits.
Healthy habits about nutrition, fitness, social responsibility and academic focus…and even, alcohol responsibility.
As a member of the #TalkEarly parenting blogger team, as a former teacher and as a mom – I know that they key to fostering long-term anything- is through intentional conversations and purposeful actions.
Conversations and actions that do not exist in isolation- because lets be honest, everything we do in our lives has impact. Big or small, ripple effect or dominoes, the consequences of our actions and behavior impact other parts of our lives and the lives of those around us. One of biggest gifts I can give as a parent is to help my daughter see that everything in our life is interrelated and that a lesson learned about one topic can be applied to other situations.
So we talk. It used to be that our best conversations took place over dinner, but as my daughter has morphed into a tween, our optimal time has shifted to bedtime- after I have read to her.
We talk about anything and everything including the dangers of underage drinking – or why I choose to celebrate a successful day with a glass of prosecco. We talk about social good campaigns that we care about, friendships, love- and most recently -about how babies are made (definitely not my most favorite topic- but still- we talked).
Why is talking about underage drinking with kids important?
For over 20 years, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR) has led the fight to eliminate drunk driving and underage drinking by promoting alcohol responsibility. This year, for Alcohol Awareness Month, FAAR has set a goal to inspire 2 million conversations about alcohol responsibility. Conversations that build healthy foundations… so that our children are equipped to navigate the sometimes difficult journeys that await them as they grow.
During a recent Twitter party hosted by Scholastic Parent & Child with FAAR and Dr. Michele Borba, I was struck even more by the importance of conversations between parents and children as the building block for inspiring healthy choices- about underage drinking- but also about life in general.
Tips from Dr. Borba about talking about underage drinking with kids:
“When talking about your own experiences,the trick is to tailor your response to what your kid can handle & you want to offer.”
“Make sure everyone is heard and gets a turn to talk. You may disagree, but it encourages your kid to speak up.”
“Be a parent-not a pal. Kids with parents who set clear boundaries, monitor & say NO, are four times less likely to engage in risky behavior.”
When is the best time to talk?
Many parents when about the “best time” to talk about underage drinking (or any difficult topic). Most of us know that in life, there is rarely a best time for anything.
The best time is now- and then again next week, next month and maybe even six months from now. Conversations need to be ongoing – without lecturing, but with purpose. Instead of waiting to talk as a consequence to a situation, the best conversations often happen without a trigger.
Another “best time” is whenever you can weave a conversation into something that matters to you child. Helping our children make connections between aspects of their life that they may perceive to be un-related, solidifies the idea that our actions are interconnected.
Guide a lifetime of healthy habits for the long haul
My intent as a mom – is to give my daughter tools for the long-term. Tools that inspire a lifetime of healthy choices. Tools that she can draw upon when she makes a mistake or experiences a “failure.”
By having conversations about difficult topics early, we set the precedent that our children know things matter. By having conversations frequently and across settings, we create the foundation for open dialogue and honesty. I never want my daughter to feel like a topic is “off-limits” and that she can ask me anything. (Having said that- when asked about how babies were born- I did think about trying to get myself out of the conversation, but in the end decided to allow the conversation to unfold. The result was that I learned more about my own daughter through her questions).
Because although I know better than to think that I can control her choices, I hope that our conversations plant seeds of thought in her head as she grows and guide a lifetime of healthy habits.
Learn more about how to guide a lifetime of conversations about alcohol responsibility at responsibility.org.
*As a member of the #TalkEarly parent blogger team, this post is part of a campaign sponsored by The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR). All opinions are my own.