Thanksgiving & Talking to Your Kids About Alcohol

For many parents, Thanksgiving is spent passing on family traditions, enjoying feasts, and teaching kids about important values like thankfulness, gratitude, and family. It’s also an opportunity to discuss alcohol and safe drinking behavior.

Thanksgiving is the time of year where children young and old come home to see family – and catch up with friends. What are they doing when they’re out and about? Thanksgiving Eve is referred to as “Black Wednesday,” as it may be the busiest night of the year for bars. And social binge drinking (consumption of a high volume of alcohol in a short period of time) is also common this time of year. While every parent would rather focus on positive thoughts and uplifting conversations with their kids, the reality is that it’s also important to address more serious topics like drinking.

Alcohol use remains common among high school and college-aged adolescents. The 2016 Monitoring the Future survey found that by senior year of high school, 61% of teens have tried alcohol and 46% have been drunk. Underage drinking continues to be problematic in the U.S., with an estimated 8.7 million adolescents ages 12-20 reporting alcohol use within the past 30 days, according to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Of those underage current drinkers, 61% reported binge alcohol use.

Unsafe drinking behaviors can lead to impaired decision-making and serious consequences. Consider, for example, Bryan Fitzgerald’s story as presented in this mini documentary by the Health Alliance on Alcohol. The video highlights Bryan’s alcohol abuse and includes insights from his parents on the importance of having tough conversations early on.

Research also seeks to understand alcohol’s role in sexual assault. Approximately half of sexual assaults are thought to involve alcohol consumption by the victim, perpetrator, or both. A review of studies looking at sexual assaults on college campuses found an association between alcohol consumption and sexual assault perpetration, but another study found that the setting in which alcohol consumption takes place may play a role.

As you plan ahead for Thanksgiving, think about how you’ll approach and have open discussions with your kids about safe drinking behavior. Conversations should stress that decision-making capacity and judgment are impaired when someone is intoxicated or drunk, and that it is important to know one’s limits with alcohol. You should also empower kids to look out for friends who may be incapacitated, speak up if they are concerned, and help them to get home safely. They should be encouraged to get their own drinks or watch them be poured from an unopened container, making sure to always keep an eye on their beverages to prevent someone from slipping a drug into their drink.

Have any other tips that you’d like to share with readers for promoting safe drinking behavior to your kids? Please share them here so that we can all have a safe, happy Thanksgiving.

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