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Drinking and Parenting
of alcohol is a much-heated topic of discussion. Ask almost anyone who drinks
regularly how much they drink and they will dismiss their level of drinking by
comparing themselves to people who drink more. Press for exact numbers and the
usual reply is, ďIím a social drinkerĒ. Press for how often they socialize
and what you may be told is that they only drink wine or beer. So pressing a
drinker to quantify their drinking can be a lot like trying to catch air. The
more you squeeze, the less you get.
is generally categorized into three levels: light, moderate and heavy.
For a man, light drinking is considered about six standard drinks per
week; moderate drinking is about 12 to 14 standard drinks per week and heavy as
22 to 24 standard drinks per week. Binge drinking is considered five or more
standard drinks per occasion, at least once per month. Levels for women are
about 2/3ís those of men.
regard to a standard drink, this means either 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of
wine or one ounce of liquor. It is a myth that beer or wine is less harmful than
hard liquor as what matters is the amount of alcohol consumed, not the form it
comes in. It also doesnít matter whether one drinks alone or socially. It is
the number of standardized drinks that matters when determining the risk of
alcohol consumption on parenting. Light drinking is only a statement of
quantity, not effect on parenting. Even light quantities of alcohol consumption
can affect parenting. So as drinking increases, so too does the risk of poor
parenting and poor outcomes for kids.
is, a good many parents are drinking alcohol in quantities that contribute to
poor parenting. Persons who are regular light drinkers may find their one or two
drinks a day, or several on the weekend interferes with their time with the
kids. It isnít being intoxicated that is necessarily the issue, but time
drinking is time away from the children. Drinking can occur at a time when
children may most require adult supervision such as after school or during
weekend free time. Taken further, in addition to time away from the kids, more
drinking can limit a parentís emotional availability to their children. Hence,
time away or emotional unavailability takes on the appearance of neglect.
Further, even amongst parents who are only light drinkers, when their children
are approaching drinking age, they will look at the parentís level of drinking
as their starting point for what is acceptable. Imagine what teenaged children
may consider acceptable if their parents were then moderate or heavy drinkers.
So the more a parent drinks, the more their children may drink and the more the
parent loses their moral authority to guide their children in their use of
alcohol. Parents who drink and who tell their children not to drink or how much
to drink will be viewed as hypocrites in their childrenís eyes. As children
rebel or call their parents on their own drinking, the situation is then ripe
for an escalation of parent-child conflict.
are advised to review and rethink how much they drink, particularly if they do
drink on a regular basis. While drinking parents are often the best at arguing
why their drinking is harmless or not an issue, the simple fact remains that
abstaining from alcohol provides the best moral position from which to guide
their children. Understandably though, few drinking parents are going to
relinquish drinking altogether. Hence if fathers are going to drink regularly,
they are advised to drink less than six standard drinks per week and never more
than three per occasion. Mothers should cut those numbers by a third to arrive
at their suggested limits. Further, parents should have at least 2 drink free
days per week.
Best reason to limit alcohol consumption: the love of your children.
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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