What Should You Say to Your Tweens and Teens About Drinking?

by Leah on January 18, 2013

alcohol visualLast week, I wrote a post about how it’s important to talk to your teenagers and tweens about the effects of alcohol on their bodies. The issue I have with the DARE program (which has since been stopped in our area) is that they only urge kids to resist alcohol, to “Just Say No.” But what if you, or someone around you, says yes (and this is highly likely, given the CDC’s latest findings on binge drinking, and also given the makeup of the teenage brain).

A friend of mine, in response to my post, expressed a sincere desire to discuss the issue with her daughters, and she asked, “Is there a list of easy to explain effects of alcohol to share with our kids that is not too sensationalized?”

Here is my own list of things I think they should know. Some of these seem obvious, but if they were so obvious, teenagers wouldn’t be going to the hospital in droves to have their stomachs pumped. Of course, some kids will be self-destructive even if they’re armed with information, but I’d like to think that knowledge is power. Schools are reluctant to share this kind of information because it seems like they’re condoning underage drinking, but I think they’re making a mistake here (or perhaps I don’t understand our litigious culture).

Before you give the talk, you can emphasize that you’re not in favor of underage drinking, and that it can mess up your ability to mature socially, because alcohol can become a crutch. It also interferes with developing brain cells. However, they might find themselves in a situation where they, or others around them, are drinking.

This is what they need to know (And please feel free to add your own):

1)   Vodka and hard liquor are not equal to beer or wine. If you pour yourself a glass of vodka equivalent to your mother’s glass of wine, you will most likely pass out.

2)   A shot is 1.5 ounces of liquid. Okay, that’s well and good, but how much is that? You need a visual. Show them what a shot glass looks like, and then show them that same amount poured into a wine glass or a beer mug, or a plastic party cup.shot of alcohol visual 2

3)   Please do not chug hard liquor from the bottle, even if you think it looks cool.

4)  Don’t let anyone give you a drink or make you a drink, unless you are watching them. You need to know what you’re drinking.

5)   It’s okay to go to a party and just hold a beer and pretend you’re drinking it if you feel self-conscious. Just because you don’t drink doesn’t mean you can’t socialize.

6)   If you are a girl and weigh 110 pounds, you cannot drink as much as a guy weighing 150 pounds. Period.

7)   Never drink and drive. Never get in a car with someone who is drinking and driving. Call for a ride home—no questions asked. I will drive your friends home, too.

8)   If someone offers you “grain alcohol” punch or Everclear, steer clear. It’s tasteless, and will make you blind drunk very quickly.

9)   If you are with someone whose has had way too much to drink (eyes are rolling in their head and they are passed out or about to pass out) immediately call an adult or 911. They need to go to the emergency room. Do not let embarrassment or the fear of getting in trouble prevent you from making the call. You will not get in trouble. You will have saved a life.

The Science Inside Alcohol is an interesting site with some information about alcohol and the body, but some of this is information they may get in health class. Also, take a look at Girl’s Health.

And last but not least, it’s important to be aware that you are a role model for your kids. This is not to preach that you shouldn’t drink—just be mindful of your drinking. A recent study found that women 45-64 are drinking their teenage children under the table. Teens may be more likely to binge drink, but older women tend to drink every day.

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