In my “Uncool Mom Manifesto” post, I talk about how some parents worry so much about being “cool” that they hurt their kids in the long run. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with parents who proudly say, “I’m letting my teen drink, but they’re going to drink at home, where it’s safe, and we can monitor them.” As if they’re quoting some parenting guru or some other wise sage that has told them this somehow teaches kids “smart drinking skills”. And what a bonus that they’re seen as “cool” by the kids, and they feel good (and probably “young”) that they can toss back a brew side by side with their teen and their teen’s friends. Ah, gotta fit in that quality bonding time however you can get it, huh?
I was reminded of this while texting my teen after the Homecoming Dance had ended on Saturday night. “How’d it go?” I wrote. One of the first things she told me was that a party bus full of kids got busted for alcohol soon after it pulled up to the school, the site of the dance. She and the rest of the students waiting in line to get in saw police and principals talking to the driver, and personal belongings being taken off the bus. Later she told me it was sad that those kids had to be drunk before they ever arrived. I agree. While I don’t know if they drank first at an adult-supervised home party, I can’t help but wonder about that, and remember those we have heard about that make the news, and those that don’t make the news. Adult-supervised drinking goes on everywhere, from the rich doctor’s family who was indignant after police found private-schooled teens passed out by their swimming pool, to the public school teens whose tragic car accident was fueled by drinking, drinking that is rumored to have begun hours earlier at a parents’ happy hour.
Whoever started the misguided parenting advice that somehow it’s beneficial for kids to try drinking in the “safe” confines of their home? Why would anyone believe this? I still hear people to this day who say they’re planning to do this when their kids become teens!!! Those of us who know better know that this is wrong, because, not to mention the tragedies that have happened, we have seen the “adults” who come from those kinds of parents– often, they are “drinkers”, who drank a lot in college, and who care way too much about drinking as an adult. Now there are statistics to back us up: a recent Columbia University report makes it clear that teens who use tobacco, alcohol or drugs have a MUCH greater chance of becoming addicted than those who try them first as adults. Science has shown that because teen brains are still forming, addictive substances do far more damage to those developing brains than at later times. As Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow explained it in a summer 2011 column, “Tobacco, alcohol and drugs all set their hooks quicker and deeper in the adolescent mind.” The age factor is dramatic: kids who use addictive substances before age 18 have a 1-in-4 chance of becoming addicted; by 21, it drops to a 1-in-25 chance. Amazing, but sadly true, and many of the “party animals” from my high school years really did become alcoholics.
Don’t accept experimentation as “just part of growing up”, wrote Blow.
Delaying the use of addictive substances for as long as possible should be a high priority of parents and pediatricians, says the study.
And just because you may have survived teen drinking unscathed doesn’t mean your child will.