Did you ever wonder why the average legal drinking age in the United States is twenty-one? Some people might think the age was determined years ago by a faceless politician who turned a thoughtless assumption into law. People have even asked why a young soldier can risk his or her life in battle, but are not legally old enough to drink before the age of twenty-one. People ask this question with disdain, as if the law was contrived as a punishment. The fact is, the human brain is in the process of development until around the mid twenties. It is possible to suffer permanent brain damage caused by drinking too much while in the development process.
My Child Wouldn’t Drink
Parents often make the mistake of thinking their child would not take a drink of alcohol, especially if their child has not reached the difficult teen years. Surprisingly, kids often try their first alcoholic beverage before they ever reach their teen years. Parents should talk to their kids about the consequences of drinking at an early age, and it is never too early to begin having those discussions. Parents should explain to their child how the brain can be permanently damaged by alcohol while still developing. It is also important to stress bad decisions and consequences that could occur when under the influence of alcohol such as unplanned pregnancies and vehicle crashes.
Do not assume your child would not take a drink, and do not expect the school system to teach your child about the consequences of underage drinking. Many parents of children who turned into teen alcoholics or ended up injured or killed in vehicle crashes never thought their child would even try alcohol let alone become a victim of it. Those parents of course, would like nothing more than to turn back the hands of time and have a second chance to say what should have been said before it was too late.
Know Your Child’s Friends
As children get older, it is an unfortunate fact that most kids want less and less to do with mom and dad. They begin wanting their independence as they strive to become adults. Kids often become closer to their friends. This is unfortunate since during adolescence, kids need their parents as much or more than ever. Kids often value the opinions of their friends and peers more than they value the opinions and wishes of their family, and this is where trouble often begins.
If the friends of a child choose to drink, chances are that child will be tempted to drink in order to fit in with those friends and be accepted. This is not true in all cases of course, but as a rule, kids want to be like their friends so they will be accepted, and they generally want to participate in the same activities. Drinkers like to keep company with drinkers, so if friends drink, they will more than likely encourage others to join in and drink too. Encourage your kids to have friends who share the same values and opinions on drinking and other important issues.
Welcome your kid’s friends into your home. Unfortunately, there are not many affordable places for kids and teens to go for entertainment. Create an area for friends to gather and watch movies, listen to music, and play video games. Provide the kids with a comfortable place to hang out and have fun. You will know what your kids are doing, and you will have a chance to get to know their friends and observe their activities.
Make Time for Family
Most families today do not have a lot of spare time for family activities. When parents are home, kids often have plans and vice versa. No matter how busy you are, make it a rule that family spends at least one day a week or a couple of evenings together. Do not make the mistake of allowing your kids to spend every minute of their spare time with friends. Even if the kids are older teenagers, they can benefit from family activities. Spending time participating in family activities helps parents and kids maintain a bond throughout life. Time spent together provides opportunities to voice feelings and concerns regarding underage drinking.
Helping Your Kids Learn to Say No
Teaching your kids to just say “no” to alcohol is not good enough. That little catch phrase developed years ago to help kids deal with peer pressure does not always work. Many people have trouble saying the word “no.” Help your kids come up with ideas for handling peer pressure. Make up “what if” narratives to help your child figure out what he or she will say if, and more likely when, they are offered alcohol. If and when the time comes that alcohol is made available to your child, he or she will think back to your conversations and hopefully have the strength and courage to find a way to turn it down.