Our children are growing up with mixed messages about alcohol and drugs, at least that’s how it feels to me here in Washington. It seems to me we’re grappling with using pot and what to do with alcohol as a community. As our state legalized marijuana use this past year, we sent a big flare into the sky. It’s possible we really do one thing and then say another in front of our children and teens, particularly at times of celebration. No question they are watching. Can you seriously imagine a pro football game without beer ads or a holiday party without booze? I can’t. The great luck is that we have profound influence over our children (tah dah!); we have a huge opportunity to help them survive.
One of the biggest mistakes parents to teens make is to believe that they no longer have influence on their kids — Lara Okoloko, LICSW
I read a tweet about a month ago suggesting that perhaps we should never drink alcohol in front of our children. At first glance it seemed somewhat absurd — that we’d ban a legal adult substance from our lives as parents to young (or teen) children that we can enjoy and drink (even in moderation) all because of the risk that our children may abuse it if they saw us drink while children. However when I read the statistics on teens and alcohol it got me thinking that perhaps I needed to be more thoughtful, not only how I talk about this but how I live with my children these next 15 years. At first glance, avoiding alcohol just seems like an inconvenient annoyance. Yet I started to read the data I recognized the incredible opportunity we all have to speak clearly and repeatedly about alcohol and risk with our children, early on.
Parents are the #1 influence on whether teens choose to drink (or smoke weed). Experts really stress we need to share data and opinions with our teens before they start drinking. The hope is that when we explain how we feel, when we share facts, when we clearly articulate that alcohol could kill a teen or their friends, that we can help our children understand their actions can greatly affect their happiness and their survival. I really don’t think I’m over-framing this in terms of survival. Teens are 3 times as likely to be in a fatal crash than older, more experienced drivers and the 3 main causes of fatal crashes among teens are drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving (think cell phone). Alcohol-related car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults.