Instead Of Combating Teen Drinking, How About We Teach Teens To Drink Responsibly?
I cannot say I was a “partier” in high school. I tried a few sips of alcohol a handful of times at sleepovers but otherwise, abstained. I also cannot say that choice was part of my belief system- I was simply afraid of getting into trouble with my parents, who made quite clear that underage drinking would not be tolerated in their house. I don’t blame them for how they handled alcohol and drugs with myself and my brothers but I can say with confidence that for me, it did not work. When I got to college, I had no idea how to handle myself around alcohol and it led to incidents were if it weren’t for someone looking out for me or divine intervention of some sort, I could have been seriously hurt. Or even killed. I firmly believe that instead of combating teen drinking, we need to teach teens to drink responsibly. Their lives depend on it.
From WNCN News in Raleigh, NC, we have the story of four families that have suffered tragedies related to underage drinking urging parents to discuss alcohol with their children early and often. They started a website on the subject:
The website is part of a $2.5 million push by state government, led by Gov. Pat McCrory, to address the problems with underage drinking. State officials said Wednesday at Daniels Middle School that the average age where children begin drinking is 13.9 years of age.
The push urges parents to begin the conversation with children while they are in middle school. The state said 50 percent of 15 year olds have tried alcohol.
The website,Â talkitoutnc.org, urges parents and children to have conversations about drinking. The site urges parents to talk often about it, rather than depending on a â€œbig talkâ€ that can be uncomfortable for the child.
I already know from my own experience growing up that kids start drinking at a much younger age than their parents may think. That is why I feel an initiative to have these discussions sooner rather than later is necessary for the health and safety of our children. If they are aware of the consequences of drinking and also, the fact that one can drink a little and that you don’t need to get drunk, we can definitely improve the chances that they won’t one day pass out somewhere from alcohol poisoning. I know the motive with many teens is all-out binge drinking with the goal of getting black-out drunk and I believe that is because they have likely not had the frank conversations with parents about alcohol and it is still this taboo thing. I know it was for me once I entered college.
Luckily, I somehow left college with everything intact- I never had to go to the hospital or have my stomach pumped. I never drove drunk. However, I was in the car with someone who was because I was too impaired to make good decisions about my own safety. I know now that maybe if I had talked about it more with an adult and not been taught that alcohol was this forbidden thing that maybe I would have been more reasonable about it and paced myself. Instead, once alcohol became readily available, I DRANK it. I don’t want this to be the case with my children and to that end, not only do I plan to be very open about alcohol from an early age, I also plan to let them try it at home with my husband and myself.
Now, I know what you are thinking- I am not going to go the way of Regina George’s mom and make my kids their own cocktails. But I will allow a small glass of wine at dinner once in a while (probably starting around 16 years old) and talk to my kids about how that glass of wine makes their bodies feel. To point out that too many of those would increase that affect and make it harder to make good decisions. I want them to know that alcohol can be a fun and social thing for them one day and that there is never a need to over-indulge. I plan to talk often about the harmful affects of drinking too much and the importance of having a firm plan in place during a night out as far as getting home and who to call if they wind up in trouble. And yes, I plan to stress the fact that they can ALWAYS call my husband or myself to come get them. Of course, consequences will happen for that sort of occurrence but I want them to know that in that moment, they will only be met with a grateful parent who is proud of their child for doing everything possible to keep themselves and their peers safe. We can’t kid ourselves and just tell our children to simply not drink. Teaching them to handle themselves responsibly is the more realistic route that will lead to less teens dying from alcohol-related tragedies.