I don’t think I’ve ever heard a parent describe parenting as easy. Full of pride and wonder, yes. A whirlwind of excitement and adventure. Absolutely. From the day, your child is born, every day holds a series of challenges you face, all working towards the end goal of making the best decisions for your child. We try to set time limits on television, electronic usage, and bedtimes. So many guidelines we set seem to revolve around time. As my children get older, I don’t have a set timeline for when to start the more difficult conversations. I’ve often wondered at what age I should start talking to my children about underage drinking. I’m grateful to recently learn about a statewide campaign in Pennsylvania to offer parents guidance to start the conversations early with our children. The Know When. Know How. campaign is a resource offering research-based education and prevention specifically targeted to parents of children ages 8 through 12.
At first I was slightly shocked to see the targeted age of 8-12, but it makes perfect sense. My children are already exposed to adults consuming alcohol. Alcohol is typically present at most holiday, neighborhood, and family gatherings. Based on the research in the The Know When. Know How. campaign 1-in 3 kids have tried alcohol before the age of 8, and 7 out of 10 parents don’t secure the alcohol in their homes. Hello! I’m one of the 7! It never even crossed my mind before educating myself. That needs to change immediately. This face is 8.
Our neighborhood is a close knit community. We have a limited number of houses between two cul-de-sacs. We plan group gatherings around most of the major holidays throughout the year, and they are always family-friendly.
We are diligent to maintain clearly labeled and separated coolers containing alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. At this stage, it’s highly unlikely that one of our children will mistake a juice bag for a beer bottle. But alcohol experimentation isn’t usually the result of packaging confusion. As parents, we need to take responsibility and educate our children about alcohol. By starting early and having frequent conversations, hopefully our children will be more receptive to the lessons we are trying to teach. I want my children to understand the risks associated with underage drinking, while preventing the desire for experimentation. They need to know our house has a zero tolerance for underage drinking.
Maturity levels are different for all children. Only you can make the final decision on when you feel it’s best to educate your children on the use of alcohol. My children are exposed to situations where adults are drinking alcohol. We need to have conversations early. I need the fragile pieces of my heart to be well educated. They need to understand that even a simple sip from an adult’s alcoholic beverage, at any occasion, is illegal. As they continue to mature, I want the conversations we start now to continue to evolve.
As the wife of a Juvenile Probation Officer, I hear plenty of stories about kids making poor decisions. Any given evening, the thought of “What if that was my child?” creeps into my head. Thanks to the Know When. Know How. campaign, I can feel confident I have the tools to educate myself and coach my children on the hazards and underage drinking. Together we can build the strong foundation they need to guide them to make smart choices as young adults versus riskier behavior, potentially resulting in serious consequences.
As a parent, we go through a kaleidoscope of emotions daily. Having a child is an amazingly rewarding responsibility, sometimes exhausting, occasionally frustrating, and often stressful. Thankfully there are plenty of resources so we never should feel alone when facing a challenge. Take the first step. Educate yourself on how you can prevent underage drinking and visit KnowWhenKnowHow.org.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.