Summer Entertaining: Let kids know it’s about friendship, not alcohol

This week’s blog post is submitted by guest contributor, Julie Greene. We hope you enjoy her post and look forward to future posts from Julie.

I cleaned off my grill last weekend and started to daydream about summer entertaining with friends.  There’s something about the warm sunshine that draws me to reconnect with friends and family. How are you planning on entertaining this summer?  Have you thought about how often those plans will involve alcohol?  For many adults, summer entertaining is connected to drinking alcohol – beer at a cookout, frozen drinks at a party, a visit to a winery, or a 4th of July party with mixed drinks.  And most adults who drink are able to do so in moderation.  However, it’s important to consider the message we send our children when they see that most of our social events include alcohol.   Are we telling them that alcohol is necessary in order to have fun? That the only way adults relax and socialize is by drinking?  That the only social events worth attending are the ones with alcohol?  These are messages that kids are likely to take with them to college and/or into adulthood.

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For me, I want kids to know that it’s time with friends that’s most important, not alcohol.  I do serve wine or beer at some gatherings, but most of the time I let the activity or good company take center stage.  So, the next time you’re planning a summer party, consider telling your kids, “I can’t wait to spend time with our friends!” and fill your home with happy memories instead of alcohol.

If you do decide to serve alcohol at a gathering, Here’s some tips for keeping kids safe:

  • Don’t host parties where only alcoholic beverages are served or where drinking is the central focus of the gathering.  Serve a variety of non-alcoholic beverages and tasty snacks.
  • Don’t serve or bring alcohol to kid-centered celebrations (sporting events, birthdays, graduations, etc)
  • Keep alcoholic drinks in a separate area; put the non-alcoholic drinks and snacks at center stage.
  • Don’t ask your children to get you a beer or serve alcoholic beverages.
  • Never serve alcohol to anyone under age 21 at your party, and instruct other adults not to, either.
  • After a party, clean up right away – kids could be sipping off other people’s leftovers.

Lastly, consider having an alcohol-free home during your kids’ pre-teens and teen years.  It’s the easiest way to reduce access to alcohol in your home.  Please visit www.linntogether.org/resources for information on youth alcohol use in Linn County and more helpful suggestions for parents.

Julie is a mental health specialist for the Linn County Alcohol & Drug Program.  She facilities parenting education groups for clients in recovery from substance use.  Julie has a son in high school and a daughter in college.