It’s the 4th of July and families everywhere are having a good time. There are fireworks, food, and drinks in abundance. Across the nation, people are coming together to have a good time and celebrate our great country. It’s also the day with the most deadly DUI crashes. Have you talked with your kids about your rules regarding alcohol? This is a great time to do so.
Kids see the grownups around them partaking in alcoholic drinks, they hear the songs glorifying alcohol (“Red Solo Cup” isn’t really about the cups!), and they see it portrayed in the media as a cool thing. To counteract all the glorifying of alcohol, they need someone to give them some firm guidelines, and a way to reach out for help if they encounter a situation they don’t know how to handle, or that they’re uncomfortable with.
I tell my kids that they cannot drink. Period. No tasting, no sampling. No alcohol until they’re 21 unless we’re at church having communion. That’s me, but that isn’t the rules that all parents follow. And that’s OK, so long as you’re not letting your children become intoxicated, which isn’t good for developing brains or bodies. Every parent knows where they draw the line on alcohol – but have you communicated that line with your children? When was the last time you reminded your teenager of your expectations?
It’s also a good time to remember that our kids aren’t always with us. They go out with their friends, and their friends or friends’ parent are driving. Let your kids know that it’s OK not to get in a car with someone who has been drinking. My kids know that it’s not OK to be rude to anyone, but if they need to be rude in order to not get in the car with someone who’s been drinking – they should. They can politely say, “I’m sorry, I think you might have been drinking too much and I’m not getting in the car with you.” They can also say, “I’m sorry, I really have to go to the bathroom,” and then call me from the bathroom. Give your kids the permission to do whatever they need to do to NOT get in the car with someone who has been drinking. And then practice those strategies with them.
Older kids go out with their friends. They’re also likely to try a few drinks themselves. You don’t want them riding with someone drunk, or driving if they’re drunk. They would probably agree with you, because they don’t want to get hurt, hurt someone else, lose their license, or damage their cars. But they might not know a way around getting into that car or behind the wheel without losing face (which is ridiculously important to teens!). Help them with this. Remind them it’s cool to be cautious, but also have a backup plan in place. My kids know they can call gramma, an uncle, or a family friend and they will get a ride home, their car will get driven home, and nobody will ever tell me about it. Work out a similar agreement with your kids. Or give them a pre-paid credit card to be used for taxis. Set them up with an Uber account of their own for times like this. Reassure them that if they call you in a situation like this that you won’t punish them, that you will be understanding. And then try (really hard!) to honor that promise.
Even if your kids are younger, this is still the time to start letting them know about your drinking rules and expectations. They’ll appreciate you taking the time to talk to them about something serious, and it will be easier when they’re older. I wish you all a happy and safe 4th of July holiday, and many more to come. Let’s NOT be one of the statistics this weekend.