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Study: Parents Are Not Prepared for Holiday Hangovers

And it might hurt your kids as much as it hurts you.

A quarter of parents who get drunk or buzzed at holiday parties do not think about how their hangovers may impact their ability to care for their children the morning after. The findings come from a report from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan and underscore that hangovers aren’t just hard on moms and dads.

“Most parents planning to drink alcoholic beverages on a night out arrange for a designated driver and childcare,” poll co-director Sarah Clark said in a statement. “Fewer parents may consider how their alcohol consumption could impact parenting responsibilities to their young children the next day.”

Researchers tend to gloss over hangovers and focus instead on drinking and driving, or parenting while drunk. However, there’s evidence that hangovers impair short-term and long-term memory, psychomotor skills, and the ability to pay and maintain attention—the sorts of skills a parent might need. Likewise, driving while hungover can result in impairments equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration of anywhere from 0.05 to 0.08 percent, studies show.

To learn more about parents and their hangovers Clark and her colleagues surveyed 1,170 parents who had at least one child ages 0 to 9 years old. One in 12 parents owned up to past incidences where they felt like they were too hungover to take adequate care of their kids, and this was split evenly among mothers and fathers. Interestingly, they also found that parents who drink rarely were less likely to plan in advance for childcare and transportation the night of holiday events, as well as childcare the next day, compared to parents who reported drinking sometimes or often. To some extent, not planning ahead may be a rookie move, but all parents should carefully consider how their drinking might affect their children, even the morning after.

“The amount of alcohol consumed can affect parenting the next day,” Clark says. “A parent passed out on the couch will not be effective in recognizing and reacting to the everyday safety risks that occur with children.”

Clark recommends preparing for hangovers the same way parents prepare for safe transportation or childcare the night of the holiday party. If parents have the option, leaving children overnight with grandparents or other family members through the next day, is ideal. Otherwise, moms and dads can prepare for hangovers by hiring a sitter the following day. Crucially, parents that do get hungover without taking the proper precautions, need to refrain from driving. No one is saying dad doesn’t deserve some brandy in his eggnog—but do sip safely, this holiday season.

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