This is a sponsored post written as part of my involvement with the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility
“Mmmm…” said our 8 year old son as he caught a whiff of limes and mint as I put my mojito down on the dinner table one summer evening. “What IS that?”
“It’s a mojito,” I said very matter-of-factly.
“What’s in it?” he asked, leaning towards my glass and inhaling deeper.
“Crushed mint leaves, lots of lime juice, club soda, and rum. Would you like to try some?”
At the mention of rum, he wrinkled up his nose and muttered no thanks. Apparently the alluring smell of my cocktail wasn’t enough to tempt him to try it but I offered him a sip just as my parents did when I was curious about what they were drinking. For the record, I never wanted a sip when I was a kid either.
Even though my husband and I have offered our kids the chance to try what we’re drinking, the strong smell turns them off when they catch a whiff while peering into the glass. But as I reviewed some facts from the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, I wondered if offering my kids a sip is really the right thing to do.
Am I among the 25% of moms who believes that offering my kids a sip will deter them from drinking because they won’t like the taste? Am I the 1 in 5 moms who believes that allowing my kids to sip alcohol will help them resist peer pressure to drink when they become adolescents? Do I really think that not allowing my kids to try alcohol increases their desire to have it like 40% of parents do?
No. I offer my kids a sip because when they ask about alcohol, I’ve seized another teachable moment to talk to them about underage drinking as part of my goal of creating a lifetime of conversations. Our kids are 8 and almost 11 and I know we’re just heading down a very long road of difficult topics but ones my husband and I feel that are important to address as they come up in age appropriate ways. We’ve always told our kids that they can ask us anything and we will be honest with them. We just structure our conversations to match their ages and let their questions guide the discussion.
Having a drink as we sit down to a meal demonstrates that my husband and I drink responsibly. I hope modeling such behavior is a lesson they remember in the future when out with their friends. Whether or not you offer a sip to your kids when they ask is an approach that’s right for you and your family, it’s a great time to stop and think about what you will do when your kids show an interest in your drinks whether at home, at a restaurant, or in a social setting and what you will do when they ask if they can try it. Will you let them have a sip or will it be the forbidden fruit?
Even though my kids haven’t had a sip yet, when they do does it put them at risk for developing problems with alcohol? According to research- yes. Research that shows that earlier drinking is a risk factor for problem drinking in adolescence. Studies show that adults who had taken their first drink before the age of 15 were seven times more likely to experience alcohol problems than those who didn’t start drinking before 21.
At the same time, I had a a friend in college whose parents locked the liquor cabinet and didn’t have conversations with her about underage drinking at times when it mattered the most. She told stories of how she hunted around for the key when her parents went away for the weekend and threw a party, replacing the alcohol with new bottles before they returned. Somehow they found out and she spent the rest of the summer before college grounded. When she turned 21 she spent over $200 on alcohol and had her own bar in her dorm room.
As parents, it’s hard to know if what we’re doing is right all the time. I do take comfort in the fact that I offer my kids a sip knowing full well that their sensitive noses turn them off to wanting a drink even before it has a chance to cross their lips. I feel fortunate that we’ve created a culture of conversation in our house to talk about important and difficult issues, especially alcohol responsibility and underage drinking.
Images courtesy of Responsibility.org. I am a #TalkEarly Ambassador and champion conversations about underage drinking. All opinions are my own and based on what has worked for our family.