December 20, 1999
The holiday season offers an excellent opportunity for parents to communicate with their children about drinking. This communication includes everything from having a discussion with your children, to setting a good example, to showing interest in their lives.
Children who live in homes where drinking is not all-important, and is not an end in and of itself, may be less likely to grow up thinking that drinking is the key ingredient to having a good time. Parents should be aware that children are very observant and may be more influenced by parental drinking than what parents actually tell them about drinking.
Recent research even suggests that how we celebrate holidays within families may be one environmental factor that can increase risk or provide protection to children from alcoholism. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, alcoholism may become more harmful to family functioning and more likely to be passed to the next generation if drinking interferes with such activities as dinnertime, holidays, vacations, and other family rituals.
Conversely, researchers believe that maintenance of family rituals, even through years characterized by heavy drinking, may prevent alcoholism from being passed between generations. In addition, detailed studies indicate that the adult children may be at less risk for developing alcohol-related problems if their parents deliberately engage in family rituals.
To model sober socializing to children, successful holiday celebrations should offer plenty of alternatives to drinking. Also, guests who do drink won't be tempted to drink excessively and non-drinking guests will not feel left out.
As a bonus, non-alcoholic activities, beverages, and food model safe entertainment. As a guest, one could consider giving hostess gifts such as a dessert or a holiday decoration, rather than a bottle of wine or hard liquor.
For other holiday party tips and non-alcoholic beverages recipes that support sober entertainment, the public can visit the website of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (www.ncadd.org), clicking on Awareness Activities. Also, please feel free to contact Val Roney at (360) 794-1447, ext. 360.
Val Roney is the Valley General Hospital Behavioral Health Community Relations Representative.