The Drunk Uncle

Do you remember the Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit, “Drunk Uncle”? Bobby Moynihan plays a character on SNL’s Weekend Update that stumbles in, slurs his words and makes obscene and outrageous remarks. His skits are usually based around holidays or other monumental days – Drunk Uncle on Christmas, Drunk Uncle on New Year’s and Drunk Uncle on Election Day.

SNL is known for poking fun at sensitive topics – things that everyone knows about or things that everyone needs to or is already talking about. “Drunk Uncle” is one of those topics. It portrays a reality that is far too common in families today.

According to the American Addictions Center, every one in 13 adults in the United States (nearly 14 million), abuse alcohol or have an alcoholism problem.

How many people are in your family and extended family? More than 13? There are in mine. The chances of having a family member dealing with alcoholism or alcohol dependency are staggering.

Family gatherings during the holidays can be stressful enough, but when they include a “Drunk Uncle” (or a “drunk parent,” “drunk grandparent”) it can be unbearable for everyone, especially kids.

Be mindful that many of the kids you work with will be spending the Thanksgiving holiday with family members who abuse alcohol or have an alcohol problem. It might not be a “happy holiday” for these kids or a holiday they are looking forward to. In fact, the worry, dread and stress is likely weighing on them right now.

Be mindful of what you say to your kids as you send them home for the holiday. Wishing them the common greeting of “Happy Thanksgiving” might not be what they most need to hear from you.

Give thought to what you might say instead. Acknowledge the feelings that are present among them. It might be as simple as telling them you will be thinking about each one of them over the holiday. Perhaps you let them know you are available to talk if they are worried or nervous about anything regarding the holiday. Most importantly, tell them how you look forward to seeing them back after the holiday weekend.

Don’t assume that all kids are excited about the holiday and long weekend. Being aware of and sensitive to this is one of the best things you can do for your students. It can diffuse their anxiety while letting them know you understand and care. Perhaps you can even personally relate to their situation.

If so, then I want to wish you a Thanksgiving that is free of anxiety, worry or dread. You and your kids deserve it.

Thinking about you,