Special occasions often bring about a change in our routines, and for many, this includes an uptick in alcohol consumption. Whether it’s New Year’s Eve, a family wedding, or the Super Bowl, these events can impact our behavior, especially in the realm of parenting. Bridget Freisthler, a Professor of Social Work at The Ohio State University, sheds light on how special occasion drinking influences parenting and offers valuable insights on maintaining positive parenting practices.
The Underestimated Impact of Special Occasion Drinking
When researchers compare reported alcohol consumption to actual sales, a significant discrepancy emerges, with estimates ranging from 30% in the US to 80% in Australia. Special occasions contribute substantially to this gap, with holidays and major events playing a significant role. This prompts a crucial question: How does special occasion drinking affect parenting, particularly during the festive holiday season?
Alcohol’s Role in Social Problems
The relationship between alcohol and social problems is well-documented, encompassing issues such as violence, traffic accidents, and child abuse. Special occasions often amplify these problems. For instance, incidents of drunken driving peak after New Year’s Eve, and men’s alcohol use during major sporting events correlates with increased family violence. The evolving landscape of women’s drinking makes understanding this dynamic crucial.
The Study: Super Bowl Sunday vs. Valentine’s Day
Freisthler’s research team conducted a study in February 2021 involving 307 parents, predominantly mothers. Focusing on two special occasions, Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day, they explored the connection between special event drinking and aggressive discipline.
Surprising Findings: Different Effects for Different Occasions
1. Super Bowl Sunday: Aggressive Discipline Peaks
23.7% of parents reported drinking on Valentine’s Day, while 16.9% did so on Super Bowl Sunday, compared to 14.7% on nonspecial occasion days. Drinking on Super Bowl Sunday correlated with a 2.5 times higher likelihood of using aggressive discipline. Possible “copycatting” of aggressive behavior seen on the screen, especially for a violent sport like football, might contribute to this phenomenon.
2. Valentine’s Day: A Different Dynamic
Despite more parents drinking on Valentine’s Day, there was no corresponding increase in aggressive parenting. The celebration’s focus on romance and love sets a different norm, fostering a more relaxed parenting style. Drinking during Valentine’s Day may occur in a different setting, such as a restaurant, with a focus on adult activities, providing a respite from parenting.
Parenting Strategies for Special Occasion Drinking
Given these findings, Freisthler suggests practical strategies for parents to maintain positive parenting during special occasions involving alcohol:
1. Designated Parent
Plan ahead and choose a “designated parent” who abstains from drinking and takes the lead in supervising children.
2. Moderation with Mocktails
Opt for non-alcoholic mocktails or light beers to reduce alcohol content, aligning drinking habits more closely with a regular day.
3. Childcare Alternatives
Hire a babysitter, plan a playdate, or bring alternative activities to keep children engaged, lessening stress for everyone.
4. Supervised Activities
For events like the Super Bowl, consider activities supervised in another room to mitigate potential issues.
Conclusion: Celebrating Responsibly
Special occasions should be times of joy and celebration, and understanding how alcohol influences parenting is key to maintaining a positive atmosphere. By implementing thoughtful strategies, parents can navigate special occasion drinking without compromising their parenting values, ensuring a harmonious and enjoyable experience for all involved.