It seems like a no brainer that we can all get behind. Talk early, talk often and be healthy. The Century Council’s #TalkEarly underage drinking initiative is designed to empower parents to feel confident in their ability to make decisions, model behavior and start a dialogue with children about alcohol from an early age.
As a member of the #TalkEarly Parenting Blogger team, this post is part of a sponsored series to share my perspective, resources and ideas to empower each of us to give our children the building blocks that they will draw upon as they grow.
But first, there are three things you should know about me.
1) I drink wine. I enjoy wine. My second wedding took place in the barrel room of a local winery.
2) I am an Italian Jew. As if the fact that vino is a cultural icon with a presence at many family meals all over Italy was not enough, my religion blesses everything over wine on a weekly basis.
3) I believe in fostering self-sufficiency in other, empowering them to make their own choices in life.
Add these three things together to the fact that I believe that as adults and parents we have a responsibility to model healthy living and responsible choices for our children. Because they listen, they watch, they internalize and they create meaning every single day based on what we do or say.
Here is the reality. Our children are moving through childhood from elementary school to middle and high school at a very fast pace. They have to make decisions every day about right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy. Just like I believe that we should empower youth to be change agents and use their voices for good at an early age so that it becomes habit by the time they are teenagers, I believe that having honest conversations and modeling responsible drinking behavior will help them build a foundation when they are faced with making those tough choices later on.
That is the core of the #TalkEarly initiative. Authentic conversations, honesty, modeling and responsible behaviors.
And yet, research shows that as parents we are not always sure of how to have these conversations, or when.
I had the opportunity to attend a full day summit at The Century Council headquarters where we heard from experts about research and advice for talking to kids about alcohol and underage drinking. I am looking forward to sharing all of this information over coming months. One of the most important takeaways for me was that just like we try to be conscious about modeling a positive self-image to empower our children, we must do the same when it comes to our own drinking behavior. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t drink, but we should think about the messages we send when we do drink, or when we talk about drinking.
Think about it…how many times have you seen on Facebook or over-heard at the bus stop, a parent make a comment about how their day will be better when they pour themselves a drink? The comments are innocent and usually are made by moms or dads (or non parents) that are just trying to make it through their day without any malicious intent or habitual dependence on alcohol. But our kids hear us. They see how we hold a glass, they see us pour a little or a lot.
As a woman who has faced extreme insecurities, I think all the time about how my crying over trying on clothes will play out for my tween daughter. I know that my struggles have sent messages that I wish I could erase to the little face that watches me and tries to comfort me when she senses that I am sad. But I admit to never having thought about this – at least purposefully, when it comes to messaging about drinking alcohol. While I have thought a lot about underage drinking and the consequences but never made the connection between the little comments that are meant in jest to a friend or spouse and the long-term meaning that it sent with each message.
If you think about it, we all have words to live by…priorities, hopes and dreams, wishes for ourselves and our children…that can help us start the conversations with our children.
So…it is time. To talk early and to talk often. What are your words to live by? Share them here as a comment or on twitter with the hashtag #TalkEarly.
(Curious about The Century Council? Founded in 1991 and funded by distillers, the Century Council is a national, independent, not-for-profit organization that partners with law enforcement, public officials, educators, parents, and students to fight against drunk driving and underage drinking.)
As a member of the #TalkEarly parent blogger team, this post is part of a campaign sponsored by The Century Council. All opinions are my own.