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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Genetic Link to Addiction Can Spur Early Drinking - Talk, Listen, Learn

Kids who drink before the age of 14 are 5 times more likely than those who don't, to have problems with alcohol later on. Why? Mostly it's genetics. If members of your immediate family have had problems with alcohol, chances are your kids may too. The younger you tell them, the better off you are.

When I was researching my new book Delaying that First Drink: A Parents' Guide, I met a number of alcoholics who had started drinking young. The most disturbing was a boy who began drinking at the age of nine - no he didn't raid his parents liquor cabinet. He went to the kitchen cabinet and drank the lemon extract, then vanilla and it goes on. He said it made him feel better. At the age of 28, he is a recovering alcoholic.

A young woman I interviewed who is in her early thirties now, said both her parents had drug and alcohol problems. Her earliest memory was her mother lighting a joint in the bedroom when she was three. By high school, Kat was drinking and taking ecstasy, spending her high school tuition money on both and falling apart.

What woke her up? She went home to visit her mother and the house was filled with vermin, filth and it made her sick. Her mother, who was nurse, had lost her job for forging prescription drugs and went home to do them full time.

Kat went to AA and is now sober - her mother died of ovarian cancer while she was in recovery.

Another woman went to her first high school party, drank half a bottle of gin, and was sexually assaulted. She had a long history of alcoholism in her family, and no one ever told her.

What's my point? If there is a genetic predisposition towards alcohol in your family history talk to your kids early and often. Don't scare them but let them know that grandfather had a big problem and how it affected his life.

Let your kids know that if they ever feel alone or scared or anything else they can come to you.

Continue the conversation as they grow. And hopefully, they will come to you. Just keep reminding them they can.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Does My Drinking Influence My Kids - More Than I Ever Imagined

Almost half of all teens who start drinking alcohol before the age of 14, the research tells us, become dependent on alcohol at some point, compared with 9% of those who began drinking at age 21 or older. That statistic should be enough to convince parents they need to convince their kids to wait.

Drinking young is not really a precursor to alcoholism. Family, environmental factors, genetic make-up of personality and ambition of the child all play a role. Dr. Sandra A. Brown, a professor in psychiatry and psychology at the University of California in San Diego says that only half of all children with two alcoholic parents, become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives.

Psychologists and researchers who work with alcoholics point out that when it comes to drinking teens role models are their parents. If mom comes home at night and immediately mixes a martini, wine is served every night at dinner, or dad puts away a six-pack on a Saturday afternoon, your children notice.

If there’s no designated drive children see that. Children observe their parents from a very young age, and they follow patterns that are familiar to them.

“We do a lot of things in front of our kids we are not supposed to do. You have to remember that kids are influenced by who and what is around them,” says Dr. Mitch, executive director of C.A.R.E. Florida, a treatment facility in North Palm Beach. “It sends the wrong message when parents ask kids to go and get them a beer.”

Drinking surrounds children from the day that they’re born, points out Ian Newman, director of the Nebraska Prevention Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the University of Nebraska.

“There is no point in sitting kids down and talking to them about alcohol in middle school if you are not thinking about the value structure you’ve created for them at home, both formally and informally in pre and elementary school. Alcohol is a normal part of life for most people and we must be more aware of how our drinking affects our kids,” Newman explains.

I have friends who drink and smoke in front of their kids all the time. At parties, the bottles pile up as do the cigarette butts. They grew up with it and they continue to do what they know. But the big question is how will affect their kids behavior? My bet is they'll drink and smoke too.

I never have more than a glass of wine or two in front of my kids. Why? Well I don't have much tolerance to begin with but more than that I want them to know that their mom is a responsible drinker. Once in awhile on weekend night, I'll get a call from my teenage son asking me if I can pick him up somewhere.

If I've had a couple of drinks I will tell him so - and ask if someone else can drive him home or if can spend the night at a friend's That way he knows, I practice what I preach.