Christine Koh

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I'm Christine Koh, a music and brain neuroscientist turned multimedia creative. I'm the founder + editor of Boston Mamas, co-author of Minimalist Parenting, co-host of the Edit Your Life podcast, and creative director at Women Online. Drop me a line; I'd love to chat about how we can work together!

To Sip Or Not To Sip?

When people ask me how Laurel and Violet differ, I invariably start with something like, “Laurel is our sweet and gentle rule follower. Violet is our spirited, boundary-pushing wildebeest!” And in reflecting on how these differences have played out related to alcohol, amazingly, the descriptors hold. The girls both know that alcohol is a grown-up drink, but Laurel has shown zero interest in it, whereas Violet has – on one or two occasions – joked while holding a cup, saying it is her wine.

Er… Uhhhh…

Is this nuts? While we do enjoy alcoholic beverages in our house, it’s not ever present. I used to have a glass of wine every or every other night, and then working on Responsibility.org’s #TalkEarly program shifted my perspective to being more mindful about my consumption -- meaning, having a drink because I actually wanted it, versus having it out of habit or as a source of stress relief. I now only have a drink maybe 1-2 times a week. So it’s interesting to me that Violet still picked up on “alcohol play.” Eep!

This leads me to wonder, what would I do if Laurel or Violet asked for a sip? I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I feel like it’s easier to keep things simple with kids. Rules are rules. Deviating can lead to chaos. We see this with the mundane nature of daily routines (don’t ever say oh, no need to brush your teeth tonight because then OMG ALL THE BATTLES!) so why would I want to go there with something like alcohol? On the other hand, I do think there’s something to be said for the fact that giving things taboo status can amplify curiosity and exploration.

When Jon and I lived in Canada, we went to a dinner gathering where sipping came up with the two daughters (elementary/middle school aged). I can’t recall whether the daughters asked or the parents offered but I remember that it was all very relaxed and the girls tried the table wine and said something like, “Yuck! I can’t believe grownups like that!” I remember thinking, “Wow, that is pretty cool. What a way to not make a big deal about it and also show them up front that it’s not worth the hype!”

So, would you allow your kids to sip alcohol? Why or why not? Personally, I’d need to ponder a couple of things. First, I’d need to discuss it with Jon to ensure we were in agreement with whatever decision. A key cornerstone of our parenting is being on the same team, a united front. It just makes everything easier. Second, age is a big factor. Violet is 4 years old and while yes, her little body has no business ingesting alcohol, we also can't have relevant, meaningful conversations about alcohol consumption. In contrast, given that Laurel is 11 and in middle school, she will likely face alcoholic opportunities and peer pressure in the coming years and to sip or not to sip would be a useful conversation to have with her. Given that she is a rule follower – and will probably at some point feel the need to rebel – it may be worth having her try a sip (if she is curious) in the safety zone of our home, where we can talk about it. But even typing that out loud, I'm kind of hard pressed to think that's going to happen.

Not surprisingly, research has shown that early alcohol consumption doesn't lead to good things, and supervised underage drinking isn't recommended either. The below infographic shares shows some numbers around ages and sipping and why parents allow it.

Have your kids asked for a sip of alcohol? Have you given it to them? If so, was your rationale in line with the below graphic? I find all of this fascinating and complicated and worth talking about!

Image credits: Responsibility.org

Disclosure: This post was inpsired by my work as part of Responsibility.org's #TalkEarly program. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own.


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