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This post was sponsored by the Century Council in collaboration with the Talk Early campaign, an initiative to empower parents to talk with their kids about alcohol.

I have plenty of failings as a parent, as any reader of this blog knows.I fail at signing the homework folders. I am atrocious at meal planning. Laundry . . . oh boy. But one area where I feel like we are doing alright is creating an environment where we can talk to each other, open and honestly, about anything. This is a huge value for me, and it wasn’t always present in my family growing up. I regularly find myself in conversations with other people—parents, friends, fellow bloggers—who admit that they never really talked with their parents when they were young. Not as preteens, not as teens, and barely as young adults.

It was a different generation, of course, where Mom or Dad were more likely to give their kids a book about sex than have a talk about sex. Or where they just hoped the Very Special Episode about drinking on Growing Pains was enough to convince their kids to avoid alcohol. (Yes, the one where Carol’s cute boyfriend Matthew Perry DIED from internal bleeding after a drunk driving wreck. It was devastating, y’all.)

Alcohol is one of those things we’re beginning to discuss with our kids. We’re not having special family meetings or anything, but are being intentional about casually working it into conversations with our kids as they get old. That’s one reason I’m happy to partner with the #TalkEarly initiative—because I think talking to kids about things like alcohol now, before it’s a temptation, is so, so important. (The #TalkEarly campaign is sponsored by The Century Council, an organization of distillers who have joined forces to fight underage drinking and drunk driving.)

Drinking is not something we hide from the kids. They know we do it occasionally, they know too much of it can make you drunk and is dangerous, they know it’s addictive, and they know it’s against the law to drink before you’re legal.

How do they know these things? Because we talk about it. We look for teachable moments.

At the #TalkEarly summit in Washington, DC, author and counselor Julia V. Taylor discussed how adolescent brains develop, and one of the things she revealed was that children generally start finding their place in the social puzzle at eight years old. That’s the sweet spot for my older three kids, which means they are starting to figure out where they fit in among their peers—the peers who will help them define who they are and set the tone of their teenage experience. The peers who someday will tempt them to drink. Will my kids be confident enough about their place in the world to say no?

There’s one thing Taylor said that I just can’t get out of my head: “How girls and boys feel about themselves from a very early age is directly correlated with some of the decisions that they make.” She included some statistics about how messages about body image play into a child’s self esteem as well. Which means we are planting the seeds for that confidence right now . . . with the language we use, with the praise and affirmation we give, and with the time we spend talking intentionally around the dinner table. I hope it will help my kids make good decisions when they’re older. They’re still young, but we’re talking (in an age-appropriate way) about any number of issues: alcohol, body image, media consumption, bullying, racism, and more.

(I’ve mentioned this multiple times in the past, but if you don’t have the Table Talk box yet, then get it. I don’t know any better resource for facilitating family discussions.)

What about you? Have you talked to your kids about difficult subjects like body image? What about alcohol ? What are some things we can be doing now so they’ll make good decisions later?

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