Let me introduce you to Mrs D, from the awesome blog ‘Mrs D is going without.’
Tell me about your family. I have a husband, three sons aged 11, 9 & 6, and a labrador puppy.
What is your parenting philosophy? Firm but fair and fun wherever possible! We have clear rules and boundaries, but also treat our kids as intelligent human beings so try wherever possible to give full reasons and explanations for what we’re deciding and why.
What have been your biggest challenges? Managing my own emotions when dealing with their ordinary childish behaviour. I got sober when my eldest was 6 and the first few years after that my own emotional management techniques were poor. I’m a lot better now at calming my anger and frustration, and as a result their behaviour is calmer too! It’s a noisy, boisterous house but we muddle through ok.
In your opinion, how can we effectively educate our kids about addiction? The best way we can educate our kids about LIFE is to let them know that their emotions are ok, that sadness and anger are normal and to be expected and it’s ok for them to express it. If we do that then down the track hopefully they won’t be inclined to drink or use drugs to avoid these emotions. The best way to educate them about addiction is to be open about alcohol’s dark side so they grow up understanding that although it is normalised in our society (encouraged even) it is addictive and to be treated carefully. Like everything I just try to be very open with my kids about stuff (as they come of age to comprehend things) to give them the best understanding of this messy, complicated and wonderful world we live in.
What have your children taught you about yourself? They’ve taught me that I have a great capacity to love and care for others. They’ve taught me that I am flawed and imperfect but that’s ok because I’m still loveable. They’ve taught me that I have a great capacity to deal with noise and mess. And they’ve taught me that Iron Man is cool but Ant Man is not.
If you have teenagers, how do you parent them around alcohol and drugs? How do you deal with your fear that they are going to use drugs or binge drink? I am not there yet! But I hope that I’ll continue my open dialogue with them as they head into their teenage years and that I will stay fully engaged in parenting so as to manage the boundaries and expectations as they start to gain more freedom. They live in a house where Mum doesn’t drink alcohol because she can’t control it but Dad does because he can, so they are already being presented with an honest depiction of how alcohol can be for different people.. we shall see what happens in the years ahead!
How do you talk to your kids about your drinking? Very honestly and openly. I say that I used to drink far too much wine and I don’t touch it now because I can’t control it. I talk about being sober and how happy I am now that I don’t drink because at the end of my drinking days I was miserable because I couldn’t control alcohol – it controlled me.
How do you explain it to them? I have told them that alcohol is addictive and for some people they can’t stop drinking it once they start. I’ve told them that it’s a strange drug because some people can control it and some can’t and it’s important that they try to use it moderately if they are going to drink. I have let them know that they’ll probably enjoy it when they first start drinking it because it makes you feel good by mimicking genuine happy feelings – but that it’s a drug so you have to be careful that you don’t rely on those artificial feel-good feelings too much. And I tell them that now I experience my feelings naturally it is so much better.