Enjoying a drink or two after the kids have gone to bed can be a great way to relax. But what about while the kids are awake? Is it okay for moms and dads to drink alcohol in front of their children? Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Jenn Berman — a Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, a Board of Advisors member for Parents Magazine and Co-author of Rockin’ Babies –to get these answers and more as well as the effects of alcohol substance abuse on children.
Is it okay to have a drink or two in front of the kids?
Parents need to keep in mind that they are drinking role models to their kids. You should drink in front of your kids the way you hope they will learn to drink when they are adults.
What effect can a “buzzed” mom have on the kids? In other words, is it scary for kids? Can they feel isolated?
At best, a buzzed mom is a checked out mom. You can’t tune in to your kid’s cues, pick up on the nuances of what they are saying or be fully present with them. Kids are perceptive and they don’t feel safe when they sense that the adult in charge is out of it. You should never be buzzed with your kids if you are the only one taking care of them or if you have to transport them somewhere.
When there’s a drinking problem, how does alcoholism effect kids in the long run?
Growing up in a home with an alcoholic parent is devastating to a child. The lack of safety, security and predictability has long reaching effects. In homes where the alcoholic parent is violent or abusive the results are even more devastating.
The studies show that children who grow up in alcoholic homes are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves, suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety, have lower self esteem, have more academic problems and are more likely to develop conduct disorders. Typically these children are very serious, have a difficult time having fun, are very hard on themselves, are approval seeking, have a hard time with change, feel different than their peers, are impulsive and tend to be either hyper-responsible or very irresponsible.
If a mom suspects a friend is drinking too much, what can she do about it?
You should speak to your friend and voice your concerns. If your friend does not take your concerns seriously you must speak to her spouse or family. If they do not respond with action, and you think she is endangering her children, you should report the dangerous behavior to the department of children’s services in your area.
How should parents handle when their kids are around another adult that is obviously overly intoxicated?
If an adult is being loud, obnoxious or aggressive you should get your child out of the situation. Sometimes parents worry about what other adults will think but keeping your child safe is your number one priority as a parent.
How can one parent protect their child/ help their child if the other parent drinks too much?
The best way to protect a child in that situation is to get him out of it. Keeping a child away from an actively practicing alcoholic, even if that alcoholic is your spouse, is your best option. For older kids, Al-anon or Alateen are great places where kids can learn coping skills and learn that they are not alone.
How do parents that enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine in front of the kids explain the terrible effects of alcohol, yet why it’s okay to drink?
Explaining moderation is the key. Parents must teach their children that small amounts of alcohol are fine, in the case of red wine can even be beneficial, but that in excess it can be dangerous. It is important that kids understand that alcohol is for adults only. Parents need to make sure they demonstrate that moderation by not drinking every night and limiting alcohol consumption. Parents should avoid glorifying drunkenness or drunken behavior.
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About Dr. Jenn Berman
Dr. Jenn Berman is a Marriage, Family and Child Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles. She has appeared as a psychological expert on hundreds of television shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show and is a regular on The Today Show, The Early Show, and CNN. She hosts a live daily call-in advice show called “The Love and Sex Show with Dr. Jenn” on Sirius/XM’s Cosmo Radio 5-7 pm PST (heard five hours a day seven days a week). She is the author of the LA Times best selling books SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years and The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy Confident Kids. In May 2011 she released her first children’s book Rockin’ Babies. Her award winning “Dr. Jenn” parenting column is printed in Los Angeles Family Magazine and five other magazines is read by half a million readers ever month. Dr. Jenn is also on the Board of Advisors for Parents Magazine. In addition, Dr. Jenn has an eco-friendly clothing line for adults and children called Retail Therapy . All the tees have positive “feel good” messages and are made of organic and recycled materials. Dr. Jenn lives in Los Angeles with her husband and twin daughters. For more information on go to www.DoctorJenn.com or follow her on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/drjennberman and www.Facebook.com/DrJennBerman.