I’ll admit, when I received the results of a three-year study by Responsibility.org (nearly 20,000 parents surveyed) that showed dads aren’t holding their own when it comes to having the alcohol talk with their kids, I was surprised. After all, I’m a dad and I’ve had the alcohol talk with my boys, so obviously everyone has done it—that’s how it works (in theory). In fact, we’re still having it. That’s the funny thing about the alcohol talk, once it starts it never stops. Life is full of teachable moments.
Surely, I thought, other dads are speaking to their children, often, about lapses in judgement, the dangerous effects of alcohol on the developing brain and addiction, right? At the very least, they must be discussing driving under the influence and making pacts of trust and love to insure their children never ride in a car with anyone (themselves or otherwise) behind the wheel after drinking, right? That’s totally a thing.
According to the study . . .
- Fathers are slightly more likely than mothers to think their children already have the information they need about alcohol. Moms are slightly more likely to admit that they are not sure what their children know.
- 21% of dads vs. 30% of moms have discussed family history and alcoholism with their kids.
- 40% of dads have discussed responsible consumption vs. 57% of moms.
- Interestingly, dads are significantly more likely to say they feel prepared to discuss alcohol compared to moms (78% and 73%, respectively).
- While both moms and dads report discussing getting in trouble at school, in regards to underage drinking, along with its potential impact on sports performance, moms out-talk dads in all other categories. Specifically, mothers are more likely to gravitate to topics around alcohol consumption, the potential dangers, and responsible consumption. Fathers are significantly less likely than moms to have discussed the following:
- how alcohol can interfere with judgment;
- how alcohol can be included as part of a special occasion among family dinners
- that alcohol is illegal if you are under 21;
- the dangers of drunk driving;
- how alcohol is unhealthy for a developing brain
- that alcohol consumption is acceptable for those over the age of 21 years.
Honestly, no one is hitting it out of the park. Parents, we need to talk.
When to Have the Alcohol Talk
I know, it seems intimidating. I get it. However, when considering the fact that talking with kids about alcohol, and talking early, can save their life, that alone should alleviate any stage fright.
In my opinion, there are two key factors to consider. First, you don’t need to put on the cardigan and get super serious for an extensive, deep conversation. Sure, the subject is a weighty one, but that doesn’t mean the alcohol talk needs to be a Sunday sermon. Rather than have one heavy conversation, have several shorter exchanges on the topic and encourage kids to ask questions.
Second, don’t try to wait for the perfect situation, just start a conversation. For instance, chances are you will find yourself at a BBQ (or some other sort of summer activity) in the near future, and there may or may not be alcohol present. Boom, there’s your cue. Are people drinking? Discuss. Are people not drinking? Discuss.
It doesn’t even need to be said summer activity (I was just trying to give this article some seasonal flair). You can talk to your kid about alcohol anywhere, anytime. They’re your kids. Are you in the grocery store? Discuss. In the car? Discuss. At the movies?
Discuss. Wait, please don’t talk during the movie. Did you just watch a movie and now it’s totally over? Discuss.
All that matters is that we, moms and dads, are doing our best to prepare and protect our children. Sometimes it may be uncomfortable; but it is, and always will be, worth it.
Take a moment, and talk about it.
This post is in partnership with Responsibility.org and the #TalkEarly campaign. Our collective mission is to eliminate drunk driving and speak to kids about underage drinking; also to promote responsible decision-making regarding the consumption of alcohol. It is a good cause, and while I am compensated as a #TalkEarly Ambassador, my opinions remain my own. Obviously.
Please learn more about Responsibility.org and #TalkEarly by connecting on social media:
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change and the Social Media Director of Dad 2.0 Summit. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy that you should totally buy.