10 Tips to Help You Help Your Child Avoid Underage Drinking
Posted Nov 16 2010 11:34am
by Lisa Frederiksen
The following is a reprint of a blog I posted on BlogHer, December 1, 2008. In my subsequent years of research, writing, consulting and presentations, I find they still hold true (with a few updates), today:
1. Model moderation.
Easy to say, but what does it mean? Basically – avoid binge drinking (4 or more for women and 5 or more for men) and stay within weekly limits. For men, that’s no more than 14 in a week, with no more than 4 in one day. For women, that’s no more than 7 in a week, with no more than 3 in one day.
2. Don’t tailgate with kids in tow. As tempting as it is to bring your children to a tail-gate party before the big game, pass on the family outing if alcohol is central to having a good time. The same is true of child-centered events and activities (team sports, birthday parties or milestone celebrations). By cutting out the alcohol, you send a message that drinking is not the key to having fun. [Of course, an adults-only tail gate party is something else, entirely.]
3. About that drink; there’s more to it than you think
You’ve read the amounts: 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (vodka, gin, scotch) – all equal ONE drink (meaning they all have the same alcohol content). Try measuring each quantity into a glass to see what it looks like. You may be surprised! Even more surprising may be the fact that common drinks adults consume at bars or events often contain two or more drinks of alcohol – each!
4. Don’t Drink and Drive.
It takes a very rough average of about one hour for the liver to rid your system of one standard drink; three drinks – three hours. While the alcohol is “waiting” to be metabolized, it “sits” in body organs high in water content — especially your brain, which is why alcohol has an impact on our ability to think straight and function normally. So, even if you know you’ve metabolized that drink before you get behind the wheel, the message to your children in the car with you is that there is a “safe” level of drinking and driving. That’s a dangerous message to send to children.
5. Know about the adolescent’s brain development.
You’ll likely be surprised by the new brain research that shows the brain goes through a critical developmental stage that lasts from adolescence through early 20s. Add to that the lack of hindsight (which only comes with experience) and it’s no wonder the answer is a blank stare when you confront your teen with, “What were you thinking?!” It also explains why the drinking age should be 21. Check out this video about adolescent addiction.
6. Know what’s in your cupboard.
One of the primary sources of alcohol for kids is their parent’s or a friend’s parent’s supply. Keep liquor cabinets locked and monitor refrigerator supplies.
7. Change the rules.
It’s probably a good idea to stop the sleepovers (talk to your child’s friend’s parents to make it unanimous) by the end of Middle School, and set the alarm so you’re up and ready for a chat when curfew brings them home. [Knowing you’re going to be up gives them the excuse to say, “I can’t. My mom/dad is always waiting up for me.]
8. Find the time.
Sometimes the teen years seem to be all about rules, curfews, homework, being grounded and rants about what they’re doing or not doing. Try to set aside time each week when the two of you do something together (could even be an errand or a trip to the yogurt shop at 9:00 p.m.) where there is no lecture, no criticism – nothing but positive messages and even a few laughs. If you’re wondering what to talk about… ask a question (but not about grades or school or homework or sports or why they weren’t named captain); something like, “Who would you vote for President if you could vote?” Once they can rely on this time and that it’s not a trap for another lecture, they’ll open up and conversations won’t be so hard.
9. Offer alternatives.
Contrary to popular beliefs, not all teens drink before age 20. Various surveys show that at least between 20 and 25% do not. Check out this website for ideas that don’t involve alcohol: Life at It’s Best, Add Nothing.
10. Talk early and often.
Don’t wait until your child enters middle school to talk. Start when they’re in elementary school. Use movies or bill board ads or television commercials as jumping off points to talk about responsible alcohol use and why it’s important to give the brain the time it needs to fully develop.
Helping your child negotiate and avoid the pitfalls of underage drinking can save them from the lifetime of misery associated with alcohol abuse and/or alcoholism. For more information and help with what you can do, check out STOP Underage Drinking, a portal to federal resources that can help parents help their children.