My senior year in high school, a boy from my hometown died on his 18th birthday. He was one year ahead of me, a freshman in college. I’ll never forget where I was sitting when a teacher announced what had happened. I didn’t know him all that well but did know of him as I went to a tiny high school with less than 100 kids per graduating class. It was one of those everybody knows everybody schools. He was a popular boy and I remember how shocking it was to hear the news.
He died from alcohol poisoning. It was his birthday, the fall, and his friends had him do 18 shots of hard alcohol. I’ll never forget that stat – 18 shots. To this day, when I cite a story about underage drinking, I always come back to that story and I think about him being a new freshman, trying to impress some friends, or not really realizing or thinking about the implications of what he was doing.
My boys, ages 11 and 13, already know this story and have for years. While it felt early to talk to them about it, we’ve always had an open dialogue about drinking with them. I feel like alcohol is so misunderstood by children; kids are influenced by seeing their parents drinking and having fun. Moms make jokes about wine. How are they to know how harmful it can be if we don’t tell them?
I often think back to that boy from high school and how in the blink of an eye – in one stupid moment – his entire life was over. Which is why it’s so important to have these early discussions with your kids at an early age.
Facts & Thoughts:
Did you know that kids ages 8-11 are the most receptive to their parents’ input? It feels young but if you think about it, it makes sense. My 13 year old already has formed so many opinions and often disregards ours already! It’s so important to have that open dialogue with them, when they are young and still care about your opinion.
According to research from the Journal of Adolescent Health, 1-in-3 kids have tried alcohol before age 8, and as cited in a survey on underage drinking conducted by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, 7 out of 10 parents dont keep their alcohol secure. WHA??!? I find these stats staggering. And remember: just because your liquor may be secure in your house doesn’t mean it is over at their friends’ houses.
Underage drinking can not only kill someone (as it did in the case of the kid I knew in high school) but can do things like impact their growth & development. It can cause nerve cell and brain damage, prevent participation in sports & activities and can increase the risks for abuse disorders later in life.
Research also showed that talking to kids about underage drinking was not even on some parents radar – more parents were concerned with issues like bullying, drug use and violence. Have you talked to your kids about this yet? How did it go?
I definitely feel like it doesn’t have to be one big intimidating talk – I know with my kids it’s more of an ongoing dialogue and something we touch on pretty regularly.
Please click to learn more about the Know When. Know How Campaign.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.