“You’re too strict!”
“Its just a beer…”
“But its a special occasion!”
“My mom used to let me have a drink with her before I was 18.”
“If you never let him have anything he’ll go overboard one day…”
I heard these and other arguments many times when my son was growing up, because I did not allow him to have any booze before he was legally allowed to drink at age 18. Not even a sip of my drink.
To put it very simply, it was a case of it being against the law so he wasn’t allowed to do it. I grew up with the same rule.
But there’s more to it than that.
Lets face it, alcohol is unnatural and unhealthy. Its an artificially created substance accidentally discovered thousands of years ago thats been modified and changed and developed to become a part of almost every culture around the world.
That doesn’t make it okay for a child’s brain and body, which is still growing and developing.
I know there are studies that say a glass of wine with your meal aids digestion and prevents heart disease, and-and-and, and if you search the internet long enough you’ll find studies that refute those exact findings, but there’s no disputing that its bad for children.
Alcohol in moderation for adults?
If you’re a grownup you can choose how much you want to drink and when and where. Heaven knows I’ve played my share of drinking games and I’ve had hangovers and I enjoy champagne very much.
Make no mistake – I did some drinking when I was underage, and I experienced a tequila hangover that pretty much put me off it for life. I also know my son did so as well. I don’t go around with blinkers on, and growing up he always knew – and still knows – that if he needs a ride or he’s stuck somewhere he can call me. His safety is whats important, we can deal with the fallout later.
I’m not denying that children will try their hand at all kinds of things, but that doesn’t make it okay.
What about drinking in front of your children?
Provided you don’t go overboard, thats also okay in my mind.
Children should never witness drunken shenanigans of ANY sort, and I don’t believe children belong in bars AT ALL. Feel like a drink while you watch the rugby? Get a sitter, or do it at home. I feel it builds a healthy attitude towards alcohol if children can see their parents enjoying a beer at a braai or a cocktail at a party – whatever it may be – and doing so without behaving like an idiot or driving drunk.
If you hide it from your children it becomes a taboo, and that will make them nosy.
If you’ve had to live with alcoholism in any form you may well be doubly aware of the dangers.
Our family has always had a mantra of sorts – that you never drink alone. Having alcoholics in the family makes you more aware of the risks of drinking, and whilst I know there are MANY people who are able to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer after work, especially after a particularly shitty day, I’ve never been able to get that caution out of my head.
My Oupa was an alcoholic, and whilst he was thankfully never particularly mean to his grandchildren when he was drunk, we were aware of his drinking. He was a spiteful drunk to his wife and children but he was amazingly intelligent and sweet and generous when he was sober, and I try to remember those moments.
I also have a sister celebrating her 10th sober-versary this year. I am so proud of her and I admire her so much because fighting an addiction like alcohol is a daily battle, and I have only a vague inkling of what she goes through.
And now my son is a grownup.
He is not an alcoholic. Nor does he drink like a lunatic even when he’s partying. I believe he has a perfectly healthy attitude towards booze, even though I never allowed him to have anything when he was growing up! The choice to imbibe is his – he knows about alcoholism and he has experienced plenty hangovers, a couple of those when he was underage and as punishment I took him grocery shopping with his throbbing head…
But I believe I did right by my son.
SAB has a campaign to prevent underage drinking, a fast growing problem in South Africa. There are a number of PDF’s on the website as well, to aid you in speaking to minors about drinking and behaviour to look out for in preventing underage drinking.
You can find the campaign on Facebook too.
Whats your policy for your children?
Do you have tips for the #SAB18Plus conversation?
Have you spoken to your children about healthy drinking habits?