I Enjoy Drinking — What Does That Teach My 13-Year-Old?

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It’s no secret that my husband and I enjoy having a beer or a glass of wine with dinner each night. In fact, one of our daughter’s first words was “Cheers!” She would clink her sippy cup with our glasses and we thought it was adorable.

The appreciation of good beer and wine has been part of our family culture since before she was born. I grew up in a large Italian family where the adults drank a glass of wine every night at dinner, and my husband has been brewing beer for the last 20 years. Ever since our daughter was a toddler, she has helped her dad during the brewing process by either stirring the pot, straining the hops or labeling the bottle caps.

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When my daughter was in preschool and even elementary school, I didn’t give a second thought to having a drink or two in front of her. Like most people in our neighborhood, we spent warm Sunday afternoons at an outdoor beer garden with a sandbox where parents could relax and drink while their kids played. We also frequented a local music venue that sponsored kids’ shows during the day where you could get a juice box for your child and draft beer for yourself.

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Now that my daughter is 13, I’ve started to wonder what she thinks when she sees her parents having a drink each night or a few on the weekend with friends. At least once, she asked me if I was “really having another” when a friend and I were on our third beer. It was hard not to feel like she was judging me and I don’t want to send her mixed messages about drinking especially since she’ll be in high school next year.

Some of her peers might already be drinking — according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, by the time adolescents reach eighth grade, nearly 50 percent have had at least one drink and more than 20 percent report having been drunk.

My hope is we are showing her that, when you are an adult, you can responsibly enjoy a drink or two or, on the rare occasion, even three.

“The most important thing parents can do is to have open communication with their kids about drinking, driving and the choices they’re making,” Elaine Taylor-Klaus, a parenting coach and co-founder of ImpactADHD, tells Yahoo Parenting. “It’s okay [for adults] to drink casually,” she says, “and it’s good to do it consciously. You are telling your children not to drink now. You aren’t telling them to never have a drink.”

For instance, she says, verbalize your choices around alcohol so kids can see you make a conscious decision rather than drinking out of habit. So, if you’re out to dinner, explain that you’re having one drink because you’re the designated driver. Or, that you’re choosing not to drink because you don’t like how you feel the next day. It’s also worthwhile, she says, to show your child that you drink because you enjoy the subtle flavors of a glass of wine, beer, or a cocktail, says Taylor-Klaus, not because you’re trying to get drunk.

The other night, we went out for a family dinner and my husband and I debated whether we would order a bottle of wine to share or if he and I would each order one glass of wine. We discussed aloud that having one glass of wine with dinner was sufficient, especially since one of us had to drive home.

The following evening, my husband asked if I wanted a beer with dinner. I said, “No, I don’t think so, because I still have some work to do after dinner.” Two nights later, when he asked if I wanted a glass of wine with dinner, I said, “Yes, thanks. I don’t have to do any work to do tonight after dinner.”

My daughter didn’t have a noticeable reaction to any of our discussions but, according to Taylor–Klaus, we’re still modeling good behavior. “Keep in mind, we aren’t raising children, we are raising future, responsible adults,” she says. “We want to model for them responsible and conscience decision-making and have open conversations with them about the decisions they will be called upon to make in the future.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

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