It happens. Kids grow up and then they are 18 and legal to drink in many countries where you may travel. The summer after my twins turned 18, they traveled to Europe and India together and were legal to drink. As they were staying in small hotels and hostels, we knew they would be asked regularly if they wanted a drink and so, we knew talking to teens about drinking was necessary.
We were frank, honest, and open with them about alcohol, but they are both athletes, so they have a true appreciation for their bodies and what they put into them. They did not get that from me….
We have always found parenting to be an open discussion and a true mix of our traditions, ethics, and beliefs combined with the twins’ personalities and what we have learned along the way. And believe me, WE have learned a lot.
Truth is, by this time of their lives, you should have had the drinking conversation many times. They have most likely come home from friends’ houses talking about people who had been drunk and in today’s world, they most likely have either personally experienced or at least heard of horrible things that have happened to friends and friends of friends who have been drunk.
But, sending your children off on a grand adventure on their own is a whole different ball of wax. So, today, let’s talk about my top tips for traveling with teens where they are legal to drink.
Talking to Teens About Drinking When They Travel and It’s Legal
This is the most important thing you can do. No matter how many conversations you have had about drinking, have one more now. Don’t make it a lecture, make it a conversation.
Be Honest About Yourself
If you are anything like us, you have a drink or two and sometimes more. We like a little cocktail, especially on vacation. Unless you are a bad example to follow, talk to your kids about why and when you like a little cocktail. Believe me, your kids know how much you drink, whether it is an occasional glass of wine on a special occasion or a few drinks on the weekend. They have been watching you!
Set Up Expectations Before You Go
Talk to your teen about what you feel is acceptable before you go and get their expectations. If they are in college, chances are they have had a drink, so talk to them about what they drink at college, too. Don’t lay down the law, but set expectations around drinking.
Discuss the Different Types of Drinking
We classify this as the following: a drink of wine at dinner, a fancy drink at a bar, out at the club drinking… Give them the tools; teach them what you know and what your mother didn’t teach you, like one drink can last all night. For many kids, especially mine, it is not about getting drunk, it is about the experience of being in a bar or club.
Learn About the Area When You Arrive & Set Expectations
This is so important! You can do your research before you travel, but until you actually arrive and get a feel for the area, you will not be able to do this effectively. Ask the locals where it is safe for your kiddos and figure out places you can be nearby having a late dinner or cocktail, while they explore the night life on their own. We fully believe in setting them up for success.
Talk to Friend’s Parents Before You Go
This is a must, even if you are not friends with the parents! Let your child know you will be calling and make sure you give the friend ample time to talk to their parents before you do. Be honest about your child and your beliefs and the expectations and boundaries you draw.
Hang Out As a Family
Make it comfortable. On a recent trip, we arrived a few days before the kids, ok young adults, and got to know the area. We sort of figured out some hip, again aging myself with that word, places and where they may like to be. We made it comfortable and always ordered our drinks first, because we would have anyways.
The first day they arrived, we were sitting outside our rental home in Old San Juan at an outdoor cafe on the water. Truth is, it was 2:30pm and I was on my second sangria. Don’t judge, it was a hot day. Hubby and the driver took the girls’ luggage up to our penthouse and the girls sat down to eat. They had been traveling since 5AM and were hungry. We had our plan in place.
The pitcher of Sangria was on the table as were glasses at their settings. We ordered more food and never offered a drink. When the waiter came to refill my glass, he asked if the girls wanted some, they looked at me, I said sure, and he poured. That is the very moment we went over our expectations, not only around drinking, but also around where it was safe for them to be in town without us and our boundaries.
Give Your Kids Space, But Set Boundaries
Truth is everyone likes boundaries. Set curfew times and physical boundaries. Also, talk about check in times and anything else important to you. Honestly, our kids went out one night without us and were back early. The rest of the time, they spent with us. They would go out and wander for a few hours, but we always met back up for lunch.
Don’t Be a Friend to Party With
This is my biggest pet peeve ever!! When we lived in Austin, it literally felt like a competition for parents to be both the teenagers best friend and to be the “party” house. No thank you! I cannot tell you the number of times my kids called to be picked up from their friends’ house. Either the parents were drunk or had at least one drink and the twins were not comfortable having the parents drive them home. We also had our go to “emergency” and safety words that no matter what, the twins knew we would be there. Don’t be the “I’m your friend parent”, even on vacation.
And never, please NEVER drink and drive or let your child. Hire a driver, walk, take Uber or a taxi or public transportation. Make sure they know they can call you for a ride. Even just one drink can make you buzzed!
Have you had the conversation with your teen?