Teach Them How To Party!

cropped martini glassA drink or two to toast the season has long been held as an enjoyable and meaningful part of the holidays for many. Who doesn’t relish the idea of raising a glass to family, friends, and a happy new year? Without question it’s fun, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t among those who like to occasionally join in.

At the same time, it’s also the case that many a holiday season has been ruined (for children especially) by a little too much holiday cheer.

And although wine, bubbly and a bit of the nog are often considered to be an integral part of a holiday celebration, it’s important to consider what kind of a norm you are setting, now that you’re a mother. Yes indeed, life has changed in this way, too.

It might not have hit you yet, but you’ve now got an audience of little folk taking mental notes on party behavior. They really do learn by watching, and you and your spouse are their favorite show.

Professionally, I’ve seen how high the toll of alcohol abuse is on children and know that those memories of “parents acting badly” don’t go away any time soon. They can leave emotional scars, a distaste for holiday gatherings, and paradoxically, a belief that alcohol is needed to have a good time.

Luckily, there are ways to counteract this unpleasant scenario and make sure that “adults getting drunk” isn’t part of your family’s holiday tradition. So as the party season gets going, here are a few simple things to keep in mind when kids are around:

  • Make sure you always have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages to offer guests, too. We buy cases of sparkling cider during the holidays and offer it to adults and children alike in champagne flutes that only get used at parties. The kids get the message that it is the “special glasses” and cider that comes out with the party, too, not just the booze.
  • Let them see you choose the non-alcoholic drink now and then. This shows them that alcohol is not the only adult beverage choice and that drinking is not the only normal adult party behavior.
  • Keep in mind that there may be a few problem drinkers or people who are trying to cut down among your guests. If alcohol is all that is offered, they may feel pressured into drinking in order to avoid standing out. Peer pressure continues into adulthood! Make the offer, “Would you like some sparkling cider, or a glass of wine, or some (non-alcoholic) Holiday Punch?” instead of, “The bar is over there.” And don’t just keep it coming all night long. When asking a guest if they would like a refill, say “Can I get you anything else? A little more wine, or maybe some sparkling water with lime?” instead of just the wine.
  • Remember to have coffee and tea available after dinner. Announce it and serve it. This can signal the end of the drinking and show your kids that serving alcohol during the party has a beginning and an end.

I’m not saying that alcohol doesn’t have a place at parties or in society. If you can SHOW your children how to use it responsibly and in moderation, you will be doing a lot to prepare them for adolescence and adulthood.

The truth is that they will be invited to imbibe before they get through middle school. If they have a template of how to party without a focus on drinking, they will be empowered to make a healthy choice when the time comes. By then, your words won’t pack much of a punch if your actions over the years have been saying something different in a very loud voice.


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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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One response to “Teach Them How To Party!”

  1. April Is Alcohol Awareness Month

    […] Back in December, as the holiday season shifted into high gear, we posted an article about drinking. […]

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