February 7, 2020 By 0 Comments

A hard lesson learned

Kids setting on steps“It was far from my finest moment. A hard lesson learned that I share with you from my most humble place in the hope that it will help you to stand strong in a similar situation.

Initially I made a sound choice. Before my son found me in a weak moment, I had refused him permission almost daily for two weeks to host a 19th birthday celebration with his peers and allow alcohol. I relented because he knew which buttons to push; I wanted him to be popular. I would allow alcohol at his party if he and his friends turned over their car keys to me and got permission from their parents.

That night, more kids arrived than I expected, and most challenged me when I asked for their car keys. When I walked down the stairs to the party, I wondered what I wasn’t supposed to know when all conversations stopped, their eyes turned toward me, wary and watchful. As the night worn on, I sat in my kitchen with my collection of keys, my stomach was churning. I knew I had made a wrong decision as I listened to the teens party in the basement. I also felt that having gone this far there was no turning back, that any attempt to take back my permission was a Catch 22.

Later that night, I felt simultaneous chagrin and relief to find them all leaving, piling into a car together with the one savvy youth who had held back a spare set of keys. I told my son I would never do it again.

But my real horror set in weeks later when my 14-year-old and his friends were caught with his dad’s beer. When confronted, his response was, “You don’t care if kids drink.” I did care and I do care.

This is a real-life demonstration of the research that I learned when I was later employed to prevent and reduce drug misuse among youth. If parents allow older siblings to drink alcohol, younger siblings begin drinking alcohol without their parents’ permission sooner. Which in turn puts them at greater risk for problems later in life.

At what age is it safe for youth to start drinking? A longitudinal study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has revealed that alcohol dependence is something of a developmental disease. Youth who start drinking prior to age 14 have a 47% chance of becoming an alcoholic sometime in their life whether there is a family history of dependence of not. That’s like a flip of the coin. A year later it is 40%. Each year youth wait to start drinking lowers the percentage of developing alcohol dependence. If people start drinking at age 21 or later, their chance of developing an alcohol dependence disorder, or alcoholism, remains at one in ten.

Tell your children that you don’t want them to drink alcohol while a minor. Then avoid regrets by matching your actions to your words.”   Anonymous

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