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Kids and Underage Drinking
By Karen Trachtenberg
Parents everywhere are grappling with the dilemma of young adults and their introduction to alcohol. They know their kids are engaging in some type of underage drinking before they reach 21, and they know that alcohol is readily available to them.
About 26 percent of U.S. parents think that teens should be able to drink at home as long as they are present, which in theory should promote a safe environment for alcohol consumption.
But parents, beware: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that new "social host liability" laws are starting to take effect across the country. Under these laws, adults who serve or supply alcohol to people under the legal drinking age can be prosecuted if any of those kids are hurt or killed. It is also possible that parents can be held liable and sued for any medical bills and property damage associated with such accidents.
Going out of town? Watch out, because even if you're not home and a teen decides to throw a party, you are responsible if underage drinking takes place on your property and someone gets hurt.
The American Medical Association (AMA) reports that adults are the most common source of alcohol for teens ages 13-18. That means that by the time kids reach 18, at least half of them have obtained alcohol at some point from an adult (with or without that adult knowing about it).
The AMA encourages and applauds parents who discourage underage drinking, but the fact remains that while alcohol is more difficult to get these days, our kids are still getting it.
That's a lot to think about when considering drinking with your young adult children. So what's a concerned parent to do?
With the prevalence of so many conflicting messages out there, it is tough to know. During any televised sporting event, viewers are bombarded with beer and liquor ads. Magazines promote alcohol as sexy, and our kids are able to obtain it from older friends, yet it's illegal and can get them into a lot of trouble.
According Psychologist and author Stanton Peele, if a kid has never had alcohol and drinks for the first time at 21 with no capacity to regulate him or herself they can also be headed for big trouble. So the question remains: Should parents drink with their kids?
According to Nancy Knott, the answer is completely dependent upon the family. There is no real answer and parents need to decide on a case-by-case basis. Knott is a CADC-1 Counselor and Board Registered Interventionist at Scripps McDonald Center of Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California.
In some cultures, the consumption of alcohol is accepted during special occasions and holidays, hence young kids are surrounded by alcohol at an early age. Alcohol then seems to have less of a fascination as something that is "off limits."
Knott warns, however, that in those cases, parents need to exercise caution and understand that they lead by example. "Social drinking is defined differently by many different types of people," she says, and "what is acceptable and normal in one culture may not be normal in another. Parents need to be mindful of that."
Some families have wine with dinner, and that is fine, but again, Knott urges parents to err on the side of caution and try to limit even that kind of drinking to special occasions. Even then, she states, parents still need to beware of the messages they are sending their children. Are your adult friends getting visibly inebriated in front of your children at family gatherings? That is something that parents must avoid.
Of course, if there is a history of alcoholism in your family, then total abstinence in your home is the ONLY way to go. "Alcoholism is hereditary, and it is a disease. If there is a history of addiction in your family your kids need to know because they have a very high chance of developing that problem themselves," Knott said.
In a study from England, it was concluded that teens who drank with their parents (i.e., were given a small amount of alcohol at home) exhibited the safest drinking behavior, were less likely to drink heavily, and were less likely to binge drink. The study was consistent with some other studies in European countries like Spain, Greece, France, and Italy, where prevalence of alcoholism is low.
I asked Ms. Knott about the study--and why the same philosophy does not apply here in the U.S. She referred to the proverbial "melting pot" that is our country. These days, so many cultures cross over with one another that the lines are blurred and it remains difficult to decide what is "normal" and what is not.
"Parents, this is not your childhood anymore and things have changed dramatically. Be cautious, be mindful and be communicative with your children," Knott said. Most of the time, parents have the best of intentions, but alcohol is a drug and parents need to know."
How To Deal With Your Teen's First Date
By Jara Anton
It is natural to be worried about your teen's entrance into the world of dating. Suddenly, your little baby…isn't anymore! As an active parent, your job is never actually finished, it just switches form. Now you are at the teen section of parenting which is wrought with pitfalls as well as opportunities to prevail. We are going to set you up to win. First of all, there are a few hard and fast "quick facts" or truths that you need to be aware of. This cheat sheet will help you de-code the behavior of your teen, while helping you keep your child out of trouble.
Discuss with your teen what is most important in relationships. This will help them build a healthy frame of reference for their future dates. Of course, the first initial meeting of your teen's date will likely be awkward and tense. Do your best to make it as comfortable and laidback as you can, while maintaining a healthy respect for all involved.
Granted, the introduction to dating will be traumatic for both parent and teen. You must learn and understand that it is normal for teens to experiment with dating. It doesn't matter if it is earlier or if your child is a "late bloomer". Your kid is right on schedule with their curiosity. Girls are often more vocal about the whole interest in the opposite sex. So, don't freak out, keep your cool when your "baby" is talking about how hot their classmates are. It's normal, do not show fear.
Next, teenagers do not know how to date. (The idea that most adults don't know how to date is irrelevant.) Perhaps they learned from single parents a few pointers, but, the basics are most likely a mystery. They will most likely be subjected to a type of "on-the-job-training" with dating. Most teens will be doing a trial and error approach. Be warned, you will be fielding some uncomfortable questions about feelings and matters of the heart. Do not scoff at these feelings of terror, your teen is going through some serious pain. This takes us to our next lesson…TALK to your teen.
Teens that have open dialogues with their parents are better prepared and most times happier than those that do not. Breach these topics with candor, yet respect. Come at them with the idea that you are on their team. It is also a mistake to make it sound as if dating has anything to do with you as a parent. This will completely turn off your teen to any type of conversations. Sure, change is awkward. It's going to be strange to relinquish control to your teen, but, if it is done with respect and earned trust, both parties will be happier.
The next hurdle that parents will have to master is the idea of giving space and privacy while still being present as an authority figure. Remember the training wheels you put on when they were a lil tot? The same idea. Your teen needs to know that you are just behind them, in case they stumble a bit. Offer to pick them up from a date. If things get a little too hot to handle, they won't feel obligated to go farther then they want. It is important to do so without consequence, even if it's 4am. Take this opportunity to drive home the idea that you just want your teen to be safe. There are many reasons a date can do badly, drinking, arguments, etc. Remember, teens are just trying to figure it all out. Trial and error is part of the game.
As a parent, you're going to want to insulate your teen from the pain of young love. It is difficult to watch your kids grow up and get close to new people. However, you have taken the time to make the effort to teach them how to behave in a healthy relationship. You have also taught them how they deserve to be treated in a nurturing and constructive relationship. As the parent, you are responsible for your teen's navigation through the teen dating experience. When you set up this give and take relationship from your young, blossoming adult, you give them the opportunity to thrive.
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