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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

To Allow Sips or Forbid Them - Does it Matter?

Articles in the Los Angeles Times and on The Partnership at Drug Free.org refer to studies about parents who indulge in an occasional cocktail around their kids and whether or not they should be allowed to do so. You're drinking it and they want to try it.

"No, it's a drink for grown-ups," springs to your lips. But then in the LA Times article they talk about how you ask yourself, "When I cast alcohol as the forbidden fruit, doesn't that just make it more alluring?"

In a recent survey of "pro-sipping" attitudes among mothers of young children in North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, 1 in 4 expressed the belief that allowing a child a sip of an alcoholic drink would likely deter him or her from further drinking because forbidden fruit - is well forbidden fruit. On the other hand, 4 in 10 moms said that not allowing a child to taste would simply increase his or her desire to have it.

I've let my kids sip since they were fairly young. Not a lot but the question "Do you want to taste the wine?" was asked in my household. And in the beginning, my kids did. Now they say no. Why? Well first off they don't really like wine. Second, it's not forbidden in thouse, so it's just not as exciting as it once once. Third, I'm not much of a drinker although I will have a glass of wine when I get home from work - but most of the time only one.

What it comes down too - I think - is not so much whether you allow your children to sip - but how you model drinking in front of them. If you're a heavy drinker and so are your friends kids can go either way. They'll either think well it's OK for my parents and I'm going to do it, or they will be appalled, and drink very little or not at all. The same seems to be true for tobacco and drug use, although we're not going to suggest they try either.

At this point, I have two teenagers, a boy and a girl. If you forbid the boy something and he's 16, chances are he'll find a way to do it. If you forbid the girl she'll probably listen to you - but she's only 13. At this stage, there's not a whole lot I can do to influence their final choices.

So make your own decisions. If there's a history of alcoholism in your family tell your kids. And don't drink much in front of them. Whether they drink young is most likely due to attitudes and genetics. You can't stop that completely without driving them towards what you don't want. But you can help your children develop a value system where they know what the right choices are. Then it's up to them.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Will Kids Drink at After Prom? Don't Doubt It

When I was in high school - as my daughter would say in the dinosaur time - going to the prom was uncool. Now the average price people pay for one night is $1,000 a study says. Prom has developed the same mystique as a wedding. Missing it is a major crisis. Thank reality television for that one.

Some of that cost is for what keeps your child safe - the limousine has replaced driving your own car and After Prom is no longer a wild ride like ours which included going to the beach, building a bonfire, consuming a lot of beer, and jumping in the water sans clothing.

After Prom is at the school, chaperoned by parents, and runs from 12:00 - 4:00 AM which basically finishes the night. The kids feel like they've stayed out, and the parents believe their kids are safe.

My son is a junior and he plans on going to after prom with a group of friends. I think it's really naive to assume there won't be alcohol consumed. What worries me is who drives them home at 4:00 AM? And what have they consumed, smoked or ingested in other ways?

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of the school offering a potential safe haven alternative to what otherwise would probably end up as a wild party that lasts all night. But I have a lot of questions:

How are you going to get home?
If you don't get home whose house will you stay at?
Can you tell me the names of the other parents who will be hosting beforehand so I know where you'll be and who is driving you?

Now I could get up at 4:00 and just go cart his friends home. Or I could just say no you can't go. But neither of those options are very appealing. And every time I try to get straight answers it goes something like this:
  • We don't know where we are staying. 
  • We will make a decision that night. 
  • I will be with my girlfriend. Her parents are letting her stay out all night? I don't buy that.
I suppose my biggest issue is that I'm a single parent and more of a pushover than I should be. A boy with an absentee dad is not an easy child to raise. And mine is tougher than most. But he's also a good kid, does well in school, comes home when he's supposed too and is for a teenager pretty trustworthy. So I kind of want to let him go. It's high school and he should have fun. You are only young once.

What do I do about alcohol use? Well it's going to be at the after prom or they'll all have drunk already and then it will be time to sober up. I suppose I could volunteer to help, but it's not my son's prom, and quite frankly he wouldn't want me there. What kid would?

So what will happen? If he does go I'm going to go get he and his friends because at least I know I'll be sober. And I'll know whether they are too.

What would you do?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is Your Teen Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer?

It never ceases to amaze me what teens will use to get high. And now we as parents have a new, horrible thing to worry about.

There's a story out of Los Angeles filed late yesterday that teens are showing up in emergency rooms with alcohol poisoning from one of the most common things they can buy or find at home - hand sanitizer.

Evidently, alcohol can be distilled from this product with salt and turned into something like pure grain alcohol. For any of you who have ever had grain alcohol, you know it's powerful at a level most of the liquor we drink could never be. And to top it off, with teens, who don't necessarily know what they are drinking, it can be very dangerous.

According to doctor's interviewed by the LA Times - "The liquid hand sanitizer is 62% ethyl alcohol and makes a 120-proof liquid. A few drinks can cause a person’s speech to slur and stomach to burn, and make them so drunk that they have to be monitored in the emergency room."

So what the heck are we as parents going to do about it? Doctors are calling for us to lock up the hand sanitizer but how on earth are we going to do that? It's in all of our homes and all over the schools. I would start by asking your teen if they've ever heard of this, because chances are he or she is far more plugged in than we are. Second, scare them with the science.

It's very simple actually. A couple shots of this stuff is the equivalent of binge drinking. Blood alcohol content is partly based on how much is in their system and ingested at one time. If your kidsweighs 100 pounds they can't ingest much of this at all without getting violently ill or suffering from alcohol poisoning. Stop it before it starts.

Here's a link to the video report, which you may find helpful. http://www.latimes.com/videogallery/69558390/News/VIDEO-Teens-Using-Hand-Sanitizer-to-Get-Buzzed-Chris-Wolfe-reports

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who Doesn't Get Drunk on Prom Night?

How many times can you call during prom night without your teen turning off the phone?

Wouldn't it be nice if you really believed that your teenager - all flush with the end of high school and the most fun night ever - wouldn't drink, potentially lose his or her virginity or smoke marijuana? Wouldn't it be nice if you came down to earth?

The over hyped, and from what I heard today ridiculously priced prom night (average price is now $1,000 per child), is an American ritual and there's no getting around it.

My son who is a junior announced to me recently that he was going to the prom, with a girl he did now know, whom he had not asked yet (but he had a really creative way of getting her attention), and finally, that his girlfriend didn't care. Since I already support dates with the girlfriend sometimes, and my son is not getting a job until he takes the last of the five AP tests next month, I figured why not find out what it costs. So I did.

But then I started thinking about the other costs. I didn't do anything I wasn't already doing on prom night except go skinny dipping in the Long Island Sound - which the guy I was with didn't even remember when I mentioned it at our 30th high school reunion. One heck of a night. Did we drink? Yes. Did we take drugs - I don't think so but mostly because the crowd of kids I was with didn't do drugs - they drank. Did someone drive drunk - I'm sure of it. Did my parents even ask me about my night - not that I remember.

Prom has come a long way in three decades. Where it used to be about a last night's hurrah with your high school friends, now it's as commercial as Christmas. It's mid-April and we're already barraged with crap teen television programs about the dramas of prom, images of drunk kids at proms, and don't even get me started on prom dresses.

I'm sure there's a reality television show somewhere that mimics the bride shows - four proms (where they critique each other's dresses and plans), chubby girl prom, beautiful girl prom, prom dates, whatever. I don't care. What I do care about is that I don't know how to stop my son from drinking at the prom. And I have no idea how I could.

So what can you do? Well you can certainly start talking to your kids now about some of the science behind what alcohol does to your body - you won't remember the prom, you will exercise less self-control and may do something you regret later, I will breathalyze you (I kind of like the last one), which can't hurt. But I think it's mostly about all the work that you've put into your kids from birth on that culminates in how they handle this final leap into pseudo adulthood. Although I was a little too young to legally drink at my prom, everyone else around me could. And no one cared how old you were.

So ask yourself these few questions and think about the answers. They should give you some idea about what to do and say.

  • Does your teenager talk to you about personal things sporadically?
  • Does your teen lie to you on a regular basis? Why?
  • Are you comfortable with an "I'll come and get you no consequences rule" if your teen calls you and says he or she is with a bunch of friends who are drunk and doesn't want to get into a car with one?
  • Do your trust your teens' friends?
  • Do you have to hide or lock up your liquor? (I usually solve this problem by having nothing but wine in the house, which my sons' friends won't tough).
  • How many times can you call during prom night without your teen turning off the cell phone?

Best of luck to everyone and happy prom.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Trayvon Martin's Mom - All Moms Cry With You

By now, everyone has heard the story of Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager who went out to get his younger brother some Skittles at half time of a game, and was shot dead in his father’s gated community. The man who did this to him is still free, and some ridiculous Florida law is being invoked that if the assailant felt threatened, he was allowed to shoot him.

Rather than address the simple fact that Trayvon Martin was pursued by a man in a car with a loaded weapon who called the police once, was told not to follow him, and continued to do so, the media is focused on turning this young man into someone who somehow deserved it. The whole thing makes me sick.

Trayvon's Mom – I too am a mom of a boy about your son’s age and I have seen how tough these boys act when they feel threatened with words or violence of any kind. High school kids are powder kegs, and I’m sure that Trayvon may have said things to this man that he shouldn’t have. But so what?

Of course I believe, as I know you do, that race was an issue too.  But I’m not writing about race, this is about mothers and the fear that goes through us every time our teenage sons leave the house. Teenage boys, no matter how good they are and I’d like to believe that the majority of them are, push the envelope. They’re growing, they’re changing, they’re learning. 

They wear hoodies – and take pride in covering their heads. They dress a little gangsta sometimes. They desperately want to be cool. And they can be horribly obnoxious. But they are not dangerous, they’re just kids.

We don’t know how others will perceive our sons – but what we do know is that there are many horribly angry people out there – stirred up by an economic environment that scares everyone. We fear terribly for our sons. We wait for the phone call that you got, Trayvon's mom, every time our boys are not home. And we pray that it won't happen to our son. 

So Trayvon Martin’s mom, as one mom to another, I want you to know that you have the support of every mother I know, no matter what race or ethnic backgrounds. We want justice for you and your son. And until you get it, we all cry with you. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Drug and Alcohol Treatment Class

I stopped posting for awhile but I 'm going to continue with this blog because I think it's important.

Since January 2nd, the last time I posted, much has happened. My son took a drug and alcohol treatment class required by the county in order to get his record expunged because a bunch of kids got caught at a party drinking. I attended the second class with him because a parent was required. His other parent never asked what happened after he went to pick him up at the party at 2:30 AM. I suppose he thought he had done his part.

So what was it like? One of the local hospitals that works with teens on drug and alcohol issues holds the class at a Macy's in a local mall. There were probably 40-50 kids and their parents (some grandparents) who came. They were required to bring a parent to the second and final class.

I thought the curriculum was quite good. It was all about the science of alcohol and how it affects teenagers' bodies - a subject that I wrote a book on over a year ago. The kids tried to look cool and bored, the parents were a combination of mad at their kids (ditto) and trying to pay attention as the lecturer droned on and on. He did try to engage the kids and did at some points with questions like "How many of you have. . . and then something they would never admit too in front of their parents," but mostly it was him talking.

What I found the most disturbing was the kids. Two local high schools had kids who were caught drinking at parties and had more alcohol in their blood than they were supposed to - as in some. My kid was a .07 which is not legally drunk for an adult but for a teenager it's .02. And it's basically if there's any alcohol in their system at all, they're liable. Plus they can get busted simply for being at the party where alcohol is used. That's why he's not going to any more parties.

Anyway, a number of  the high school kids knew each other and the first week when I dropped my son off there were exchanged glances, a few hey man how you doings. When the parents were there, not a word, just an uncomfortable glance.

The worst part? A 13 year-old girl from our neighborhood who used to hang out with my other child, was busted for marijuana and so was another kid from our local middle school. They're in 8th grade. The expression on her mother's face - indescribable.

Talk to your kids - monitor them. Trust is a beautiful thing but this is not the age for it.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What Would You Do If Your Teen Was Caught Drinking?

We're coming off winter break and stories are circulating about drinking and drugs among our high school aged kids.

Recently, a group of local high school kids got nabbed by local police for underage drinking at someone's house. They were not arrested but they were breathalized and issued summons to appear for alcohol and drug classes and have to do community services. Also parents had to go pick them up in the middle of the night. I can just imagine how embarrassing that was for all involved.

I've heard these stories before and never really thought about how I would react in that situation. What if it's the first time it's ever happened? Do you ground your kid? Do you think well we all did this kind of thing in high school and the way the state deals with it is enough punishment?

I was kind of a wild kid and I understand the risks they take and how hard it is to avoid peer pressure. But what if it's my kid? What if he's driving - or a few months away from it? How can you live with that fear?

What did occur to me was that by high school many of the parents don't know each other anymore. We are texted, we pick up our kids outside of houses, we don't bother to knock on doors and Meet the Parents. We don't pay attention and we should.

Parents are often reluctant to talk to each other about these things. It's really that simple. So consider it a reminder. Any thoughts?