Underage Drinking and Ecstasy – What Can We Do?
As we approach the school holiday break, our teenagers become more at risk for underage drinking and drug use. Starting from a young age, we can begin these conversations with our children. According to Adlerian author and counsellor, Alyson Schafer, parents are the #1 influence in children’s lives when it comes to the choices they make regarding alcohol and drugs. Alyson Schafer, has recently been sponsored by Labatt’s Canada to provide information to parents on the best ways to prevent underage drinking, which I will summarize in this article.
Monkey See – Monkey Do… What Do Your Children See?
When you think about your own drinking and substance habits, what messages do you role-model?
If your family rules and family values state that neither underage drinking nor drug use is acceptable, then it’s important to continue to discuss these limits and be responsible with your own habits. Even if your child breaks the limits, having limits is better than having no limits. Knowing that there is an expectation, a family rule, or a pre-set limit, helps to reign in your child’s desire to experiment. By having a set limit, your child may go to a a party and have two or three beers/coolers vs. a bottle of vodka. Although, this is not exactly what you wished for, it’s better than your child being passed out in a park with an empty vodka bottle in hand.
As Alyson Schafer and and many other parenting educators state, when our children become teenagers, we can no longer control them. I love Alyson’s metaphor of being their co-pilot in an airplane. When they are younger, we are the pilot, and as they get older they move into the co-pilot seat. We can still take over in an emergency, but we are now by their side helping to coach and guide them. If we try to take too much control, then we will find ourselves ejected from the plane and they’ll find a new co-pilot, which will most likely be a peer.
If we allow our children to have a drink at home, this gives the message that underage drinking is acceptable and this conflicts with the family rules that we have in place.
How can you help your teen plan a 16th birthday party that’s really fun and doesn’t involve drinking?
How Do You Respond to Your Teen When He/She Makes a Mistake?
If you explode at your teen when he/she makes a mistake, then your child learns that it’s safer to hide things from you.
Mutual Respect and Trust = Influence
When your child makes a mistake, and you help your child find a solution to the problem (re-pair), and convey the message that mistakes are an opportunity to learn and no problem is so big that it can’t be solved, your child will feel more open and trusting with you.
When your children feel safe to tell you that they’ve made a mistake, they will also feel safe to call you from a party and ask to be picked up early when they’re feeling uncomfortable or they’ve drunk too much.
The Teen Brain Is Hardwired for Risk
Dr. Daniel Siegel explains the brain development of teens in his excellent book, Brainstorm. Naturally, teenagers need to become more prepared to leave the “nest” and therefore this stage of development involves more risk-taking behaviours. However, this doesn’t have to be negative.
Parents can help to guide risk-taking behaviours by encouraging their teens to follow their passions and take a risk by performing on a stage, approaching a local coffee shop and asking to display their art or photography, developing an app, starting a blog, and any other ideas where they are trying something new that takes a little bit of courage.
Find Teachable Moments
Before children become teenagers, it’s a good idea to start conversations about alcohol, drugs, etc. You may be walking downtown together and see someone who is intoxicated, which could lead to a related discussion. When alcohol and drug commercials appear on TV, you could spark a conversation. Just as we look at food labels for ingredients and sugar percentages, we can show our kids the different percentages of alcohol in beer, wine, and hard alcohol.
Before your teens go to a party, it would be important to go over the risks, find out what the adult supervision looks like, meet the parents, and go over with your child what they can say to leave a situation early or how they would say “no” to drugs and alcohol. A simple “no thanks” is all that is needed. Being the driver, who picks up a group at the end of party, also creates a lot of opportunity for conversation about the party and how it went.
Videos such as this heartbreaking one, show the high risks of drugs such as Ecstasy.
This Australian boy made this video clip to try and save others from the dangers of drugs. He took Ecstasy and is lucky to be alive. However, he now has an uncontrollable stutter and uncontrollable motor tics which mean his body is constantly jerking in different directions. I always mention to my own children, think of the source. You have no idea who is preparing what, what the drugs could be laced with, and what the potency might be. Risks – Rewards… this Australian guy would now say that there is no reward worth the permanent risks.
Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a safe and fun holiday,
PS. My next round of groups to teach boys and girls about anxiety and anxiety management strategies will start again in January. (Winter Anxiety Group 2016) The 7-9yrs. group is full but there is still room in the 10-12 yrs. group. For more information, and to register online, please click here.
PPS. I recently posted an article with many gift giving ideas for your family to promote attachment, self-regulation etc. you can find it here.
PPPS. For Vancouver families, here is an amazing holiday guide: Festive Flair 2015 holidaysof all the festive activities happening in December.
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