With research increasingly showing that drinking alcohol is detrimental to teenagers' (and certainly younger kids') still-developing brains, you may want to think twice about letting your kid sip during the holidays if your usual policy is no drinking. Consistency is key—even if it means refusing a sip of eggnog, says Tina George, training coordinator of the Student Assistance Program at the Caron Treatment Centers in Wernersville, PA. “Don’t compromise your clear messaging by allowing the occasional sip of alcohol at gatherings,” she asserts. “It sends a message to your child that you're flexible about his use of alcohol.” Below, she shares more do’s and don’ts on maintaining your no-alcohol-for-kids message.
Do stress that alcohol will be served during the holiday season only to those 21 and older. “Reinforce that your child is under the legal age, and drinking can disrupt healthy brain development. Kids are more likely to have respect for the laws if you do as well,” says George.
Do demonstrate responsible adult use of alcohol. Show children that responsible drinking is not drinking to get drunk. Moreover, show that if the adults at the party do have a drink, they won’t be driving home that evening.
Do use teachable moments. When someone gets out of hand at a gathering or a celebrity is on the news for inappropriate alcoholic behavior, make use of opportunities to reinforce your no-kid-use message.
Don’t let your child enter into social situations unprepared, whether in your home or outside of your care. “Give him the tools to get out of situations where he may be tempted by alcohol,” George says. “Practice ahead of time what to say if someone offers a drink. Phrases like ‘I can’t tonight because I have to get up really early in the morning’ or ‘My mom is waiting for me tonight and if she even thinks I’ve been drinking I will be grounded’ can be helpful.”
Do make sure your child knows to never get in a car with a driver who's been drinking. Let him know there's never a good reason to put himself in that kind of danger.
Enforcing strict alcohol rules for kids during the holidays may seem sticky, but there’s no need for guilt. “There are so many ways to make kids feel included in the festivities,” says George. “Consistent messaging around this issue is your greatest preventive effort in helping your child avoid bad decisions around the use of alcohol.”