Do You Drink In Front of Your Kids?

Health & Wellness on 01.25.12
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo: Cristiano Betta/Creative Commons

Why is it that parenting and alcohol is such a difficult subject?

That's what Monika Bielanko is asking over at Babble as she explores how much is too much when it comes to parenting and drinking (her post is based on an earlier piece she wrote about parenting and alcohol on her own blog at The Girl Who):

Within the parenting community, it seems like there is no leeway in being a person who enjoys drinking responsibly. If you admit you drink in the evenings and, God forbid, actually watch the clock in anticipation of that first swallow, you are immediately ruled an unfit parent and a burgeoning alcoholic. Heather Armstrong, from Dooce, used to write about how she likes bourbon. She hasn’t done that in a while but recently, after she announced her separation, I marveled at all of the speculation about how and why she and her husband are separating and one thread on some douchey hate blog really took the cake with a comment thread about how alcohol probably played a large role in the separation because she used to write so much about drinking liquor.

From serving alcohol to teens to a shift in teen drug use from booze to weed, we've talked a lot her on Parentables about kids and alcohol. But what about parents? If Monica's post is anything to go by, it seems that not everyone ascribes to the philosophy that "judge not" should be the first rule of parenting. But given that a huge number of parents enjoy alcohol in moderation while their kids are around, isn't it absurd to rush to judgement or start pointing fingers? In fact there's a strong case to be made that enjoying alcohol in limited quantities in front of your kids teaches them it is nothing to be glorified, and can be used responsibly without creating a problem. As commenters on Monica's blog pointed out, the only issue is when kids start noticing a change in your behavior - that may be a sign that you've had a few too many.

I grew up in England with an English dad and a Finnish mom. That meant a decidedly mixed upbringing when it comes to attitudes to alcohol. In Finland, where alcoholism is rife, anything stronger than beer can only be sold through state-owned stores, and it was - and to some degree still is - frowned upon to drink alcohol at many social gatherings. So when my Dad inadvertently tried to send us to the local school with our sports gear in a bag from the aforementioned booze store, my grandma practically had a heart attack.

Meanwhile in England, many pubs have a playground in their garden, and it is perfectly normal for families to spend an afternoon at the pub with the parents enjoying a pint while the kids run around getting into trouble all jacked up on sodas. England has its own problems with alcohol, including serious public disorder problems and a youth culture of binge drinking - but it also more of a tradition of teaching kids to drink responsibly. While the law does not permit it, it is not uncommon to see an obviously underage teenager sharing a pint with their parents in many establishments. (In the interests of protecting my parents, I'd like to say that this NEVER happened with me.)

Ultimately, I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer, nor one correct way for societies to handle this thorny subject. But it does seem likely that discussing it openly, explaining what alcohol is, and giving kids the facts (not the over-dramatized stigma) will let them make up their own minds, and hopefully give them the tools to make wise choices in the future.And pointing the finger at others who take a different approach to your own - so long as they are not getting blind drunk in front of the kids - seems like it's just bad form. Now if you'll excuse me, all of this pontification has made me thirsty.

More from Monika Bielke at The Girl Who.

Top Stories on Alcohol and Parenting
Teen Marijuana Use Up, Alcohol Use At Historic Lows

Real Parents Weigh In: Would You Serve Alcohol to Your Teen?

Kate Hudson Seen Drinking Wine While Pregnant