Teaching moments with a child are precious. The opportunity to have honest, uplifting conversations with them is not as rare as one might think. It all depends on us as parents and teachers being properly aware of when those times occur.
The other day my six-year old son and I were sitting at the table, each eating our own bowl of cereal. After several minutes of his sporadic comments, each further making the inner workings of his train of thoughts even more impossible to unravel, he said something that really caught my attention.
“I wonder what alcohol tastes like.”
I immediately recognized this as a brief chance to discuss something important. While our own family’s exposure to alcohol is quite limited — one of the advantages to living in a predominantly Latter-day Saint family — there is a whole other realm into which he enters every day: school.
He has many friends who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of these friends have parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and maybe even older brothers or sisters who drink alcohol. It’s a normal part of their lives. For them, drinking beer may be along the same lines as drinking juice would be for us.
For the next several minutes, over many spoonfuls of cereal, we talked about being curious about what things like alcohol, cigarettes, or other harmful things might taste like. I was certain to point out that while we’re all apt to be curious, it doesn’t mean we should try them. None of us ever knows what might happen with even one small sample.
For those inexperienced with taking hold of teaching moments, I have a few simple suggestions drawn from my own experiences.
Don’t ever freak out. If you make it a big deal, they will too. Of course there will be times when it’s necessary to make a stern point, but doing or saying anything out of either anger or fright will only frighten your child as well, and they’ll be less likely to come to you next time.
Let them guide the conversation by asking questions. It might be what they’re really talking/asking about isn’t all that difficult to answer. In doing this, you can even help direct your child toward answering his/her own question.
Take them seriously. If you laugh them off or treat their inquiries as unimportant, they’ll begin to question their own thoughts and ideas. Don’t forget that just because an answer seems obvious to us, we were once little children and had to learn these things as well.
If you don’t know, or are unprepared to answer a question, tell them so. Suggest they give you time to explore the question, or look for the answer together.
Every child has a questioning mind, and every child loves to learn. It’s important to be certain they’re learning what the Lord wants them to learn.
For further understanding of why we adhere to a certain standard of what we eat and drink, see the Word of Wisdom.
This article was originally published in November 2007. Minor changes have been made.