Alcohol and honesty: What do I tell my kids about my past drinking?

That’s a question Mark and I are always asking ourselves. About the news. About our neighborhood or neighbors. About family situations. About certain questions we have about faith. We value honesty with each other and are trying to teach our kids that honesty is always the best choice. We want to be the kind of parents who will always talk with our kids about whatever subject comes up. We’re big fans of telling the truth.

But how MUCH of the truth? For example, if we get into a discussion about alcohol, how much do we tell the kids about our past drinking?

Both of us come from very religious families that didn’t drink. In my family, drinking at all was considered a sin. Both of us also come from families where there has been some alcohol dependency. We’re teaching our kids that drinking isn’t necessarily bad in itself. They’ve seen us drink alcohol on occasion, always in moderation. But we also make it clear that alcohol is only for adults—especially adults who approach it cautiously. We teach them that being drunk is a bad thing because it leads to bad decision-making.

Eventually, though, I have a feeling we will shield some of these questions: Have you ever been drunk? Did you ever drink before you were old enough?


The answer is yes. I was a high school drinker. The first time I ever drank alcohol, I got drunk to the point of throwing up. I hated it. Physically, I felt like I was about to die. Emotionally, I was embarrassed. I felt out of control, and that’s not a feeling I liked. That one experience scared me so much that I’ve been very careful about alcohol ever since. I don’t drink that much now because of that first time.

So I’ll tell my kids that story. I’ll disclose it because it’s relevant. I’ll tell them how it made me feel. I’ll tell them how sick I was. I’ll talk about hanging around the party crowd in high school, and what I observed from my friends who were always getting drunk. I’ll tell my kids about the bad decisions I saw my friends make—decisions about their sexuality or safety.

The same goes for Mark. He drank enough in high school to get drunk a time or two. He’ll talk to the kids about his negative experiences with alcohol, too.

We will be honest with them to the degree it’s necessary for the purpose of the conversation and their age level.

I’m appreciating the #talkearly campaign, because it’s helping me wade through the challenges of talking to kids about these kinds of issues. Communication is SO important to raising kids. And honesty is important to good communication.

How honest will you be about your own drinking if your kids ask?