After spending an afternoon writing a brief article for work about how to discuss and prevent alcohol use in preteens I brought the topic up at dinner. The responses from the two preteens present were gratifying (whew!). I asked them why they think some kids try alcohol. The 11 y/o said simply “stupid peer pressure”. The 9 y/o said simply and emphatically “ew!”. The 14 y/o was not there but, the discussion reminded me of a similar chat we had with him years ago.
We were sitting around the dinner table with another couple and their child. The two boys were probably about 7. Somehow the topic of drinking alcohol came up and my son asked why grownups were allowed to drink but kids weren’t. This is a good question that your preteen may ask you if you open this topic up at the table tonight. The societal messages around drinking can be confusing for kids. We tell them they can’t drink until 21. However, many people seem to think that alcohol use in teens is better than drug use (this despite the scary statistics to the contrary). TV shows, movies and video games can make it look like everyone drinks. That night we explained to the kids that one reason kids are not allowed to drink is that young bodies do not metabolize alcohol the same way as adults. That it is much more dangerous for a young child. The next morning, my son used this information to point out another mixed message in his world.
It was Sunday and although not always faithful church-goers, we went that morning. Early on in the service there was “discovery time” when the young children come forward for a brief lesson directed at their level from the minister. That morning it happened to be a talk about turning water to wine. The kids were captivated and fascinated when the minister poured plain water ceremoniously into a pitcher (with some powdered purple drink mix hidden on the bottom) and then poured out the “wine” into cups to share with the kids. My child gasped and gave me a mortified look from the front of the church. He then proceeded to run down the aisle, jump into my lap and rather loudly exclaim “He’s trying to kill me Mom”!
Indeed, society promotes alcohol to our children and they find many mixed messages around them but, ministers are usually not in the business of scaring small boys! Your preteen though, is still at an age where he believes in you and your abilities to teach him are miraculous; start talking tonight!