There are talks, and then there are talks.
Ellen: There are talks with your kids like “You really need to eat your vegetables.”
Erin: And then there are TALKS which cover weightier issues like alcohol.
Ellen: Planning a TALK with your kids can be daunting, so seizing the moment to have TALKS should become a habit.
Erin: I have five kids. If I scheduled out big TALKS with each individual child on every important subject, I would be rocking in the corner from the stress overload of it all and my kids would be ducking for cover to avoid the awkward.
Ellen: But there are plenty of everyday opportunities where you can share a quick morsel of knowledge, ask your child’s opinion . . .
Erin: Really actively listen to their thoughts . . .
Ellen: And have a discussion that doesn’t leave anyone cringing from the embarrassment of a staged lecture.
Erin: One of our go-to conversation igniters is pop culture. If you are primed and in the mind frame to capitalize on TALK opportunities when they present themselves, then TV, movies, books, and music are your kindling.
Ellen: Just the other day the Ke$ha song, Tick Tock, came on the car radio, and my daughter remarked, “Man, this song is old.” I just continued the flow and said, “This song has always seemed like a cry for help to me. I mean, c’mon, she’s singing about brushing her teeth with alcohol.”
Erin: Or she needs to put toothpaste on her shopping list.
Ellen: That’s what my daughter said! But with that humor and Ke$ha pulsing in the background, we talked about the C.A.G.E screening questions for alcohol use:
- Have you ever felt like you should Cut down on your drinking?
- Have you ever felt Annoyed that people questioned your drinking?
- Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever needed an Eye opener drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
Erin: Brushing your teeth with alcohol qualifies as an eye opener, for sure, and I’m going to go out on a limb to say that Ke$ha would probably be annoyed you were using her song like an Afternoon School Special.
Ellen: But you know who wasn’t annoyed? My daughter. We had a relaxed, natural conversation about what responsible alcohol use looks like without any lecturing involved.
Erin: I’ve had similar luck piggybacking off an episode of a favorite show or watching a movie together. Thank you, ABC Family, for being the springboard for many a convenient conversation. Bottom line: be open to the moments when they present themselves, even and especially after cringe-worthy episodes of Must-See-TV.
Another way to get the conversation rolling is to follow our latest #TalkEarly initiative. April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (now FAAR, formerly known as The Century Council) has set a goal of sparking two million conversations this month about alcohol responsibility and we want you to join the discussion with us.
Luckily, we’ve taken a great first step for you. With FAAR, Scholastic Parent and Child, and Dr. Michele Borba, Today Show regular and author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries and our other #TalkEarly ambassadors, we started talking on social media about some of the issues facing parents and kids and alcohol responsibility today. In addition to the wonderful support and honesty shared, three powerful and important messages emerged.
The first thing to remember is that these talks don’t require much ACTUAL talking on your part. Can we all just breathe a big sigh of relief right now? While there is nothing wrong with being prepared and there are some great resources here, googling “scripts for alcohol conversations with my kids” isn’t really necessary either. The reassuring truth is that kids want parents to listen twice as much as they talk. You don’t need all the answers so much as the desire to be present and available. We can all put a check in that box.
The second thing to file away and rub like a lucky talisman is that your child WANTS to hear what you have to say. You are now and will always be a hugely powerful orb in your family’s little solar system. You matter. You make a difference. Oh, and you can do this. We all can.
The third thing is the thing we said before: just talk about stuff. Any of it. The music, the movies, and the TV shows will get the talk flowing for sure, but really anything will do. It’s easiest to just talk early, talk often, and keep the conversation going. It’s a heck of a lot easier to start having conversations when your child is eager for time with you and wants to talk about his latest obsession with LEGO or her favorite character from “Frozen” than when you have to talk about the arrangements for prom night. Start the conversation before you need to have a confrontation. Your kids may not make it easier to talk when they cross over into teendom but if it’s what you have always done, you can rely on that shared history to bridge the generational gaps and hormonal humps.
Listen, we know you are already busy and finding time for big talks rate somewhere between never and not-gonna-happen. But remember what we said before: it doesn’t have to be hard or big or even something that you need to schedule on your calendar. Simply opening your eyes to opportunities to get a conversation going is an important step, maybe the most important one. Look for the kindling in your every day life with your child. Let the ordinary ignite your discussion.
So now we are going to leave you with one important thought and a question: What conversation will this spark for you?
Don’t take a “not my kid” attitude. Keep your eyes open and your relationship strong. Don’t ignore underage drinking issues.
-Dr. Michele Borba
Be 1 in 2 million this month!
Join the conversation and #TalkEarly with your kids today!
-Erin and Ellen
This post was sponsored by The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, but all of our opinions are our own.
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski