Saturday, October 30, 2010

Kids and Alcohol don't mix: Ask, Listen, Learn distills some advice.

As parents, we see the changes that take place when our kids become adolescents. This is the time when their brains are in development and hardwiring for challenges of adulthood. While we may have mixed feelings about their increasing independence,  we should  feel assured that 9-12 year-olds still look to us for guidance. This is huge because studies show that parents still have most influence over our teens' decisions.  Drinking - or not drinking -  is one of them.

Now is the time to engage in conversation about alcohol with our tweens.  The Century Council , a national nonprofit organization funded by distillers, is dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking. They have developed a wide range of initiatives and public awareness campaigns.  Ask, Listen, Learn provides practical tips on how to talk to adolescents about alcohol.

The website offers plenty of materials for parents, teachers and kids and encourages tweens to become part of the Ask, Listen Learn Team to live a healthy, active lifestyle.  Adults can do their part by learning when and how to discuss alcohol with their kids:

Ask:  After sharing your reaction to an example about alcohol, be sure to ask what your tween thinks about it.

Listen:  Do this very carefully, and make sure they know they can speak freely by not criticizing their thoughts.  “Kids need to know that if they speak openly, they won’t regret it,” says Dr. Paul Coleman, a psychologist and author of How to Say It to Your Kids.

Learn:  Keep it a conversation, not an argument.

Kids and alcohol make a toxic cocktail.  Here are ways to say "no!"

1. Alcohol is a toxin and disrupts this crucial window of development during puberty.  
"Sorry, I need all my brain cells."
2. Insufficient brain development can lead to many problems such as learning difficulties, cognitive deficits, memory impairment and emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety.
"I'm a thinker, not a drinker!"

3. Teenage drinking is also dangerous, as alcohol can inhibit their ability to consider the consequences of their actions, leading them to take negligent risks, like getting in fights, drinking while driving, promiscuous behavior, or life-threatening accidents. 
"I'd like to live the rest of my 90 years, thank you!"
4. The more a teenager drinks, the less likely they are to get involved in other activities which are important for building confidence and maturity. 
"I'm smarter thank I look."

5. Drinking alcohol can become a negative distraction not only from study, but sport, creative pursuits, family life and socializing with friends. 
"You may be a follower, but I'm a leader, so follow me."

Ask, Listen, Learn provides tools for kids, parents and teachers.  They feature top-notch "SuperStars" like Apolo Ohno, Louie Vito and Dara Torres to inspire kids to say YES to a healthy lifestyle and NO to underage drinking.  

Start the conversation.  Remember to give lots of love and praise.  Comment if you have any thoughts or personal experience you'd like to share.

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