Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hide The Alcohol!!

It has been reported that our kids develop all types of beliefs about alcohol and, of course, many are correct, while others are distorted. Some of these beliefs are brought about by information provided by friends, some are formed by witnessing family members drink, and others are brought about by the media. After all, while watching a football game, there are multiple “cool” guys and gals who drink their way through commercials, appearing to have tons of fun along the way!

Unfortunately, few kids are equipped with all of the necessary facts about alcohol and its effects. As such, kids are likely to make decisions on faulty information. Faulty beliefs serve to make adolescent drinking more likely, as they typically exaggerate the positives and minimize the negatives. It is very important for you to provide your middle school or high school son or daughter with thorough and accurate information about alcohol.

Of course, being children of the 60’s and 70’s, we would like to believe that we already have the necessary facts and experience to teach our kids about alcohol (after all, who didn’t gain a tremendous education through seeing their high school acquaintances, or even themselves, engage in drinking?), but even adults have been known to carry some misguided notions on this topic. We must learn the facts about what a depressant is and how alcohol is metabolized, along with its immediate and long term effects. Helping your kids know the facts, as opposed to the myths, will enable them to make informed decisions about alcohol.

Below are some of the common misnomers with accompanying facts that adolescents have regarding alcohol. These are worth learning and then sharing with your child!

* "Alcohol improves my mood, alters my mental state." Though it is true that small amounts of alcohol reduce "self-focused attention", and that this effect, in turn, can reduce stress in some people, heavy drinking typically leads to unpredictable and uncontrollable emotions. If someone is very angry and drinks to relax, it is possible that the person might become even angrier --and all of the other undesirable behaviors which typically follow.

* "Alcohol makes me perform better." Though you may feel like you are performing better, as alcohol relaxes, heavy drinking has a detrimental effect on judgment, coordination and reaction time. Any amount of alcohol in your blood leads to impairment in driving. Alcohol, due to the relaxing effects and the direct lessened effects on self-monitoring, can lead to false confidence which can have deadly consequences if unchecked.

* "Alcohol feels great!" The short-term effects of alcohol are often remembered at the expense of long-term effects. The short-term effects are usually pleasurable - the long-term effects negative. It is helpful for adolescents to learn how to bring these potential negative effects to mind when deciding whether to drink or not. They include hangovers, interference with restorative sleep, foolish and or dangerous behavior, legal trouble, potentially deadly outcomes if driving occurs, impulsive sexual behavior, long term health problems.

* "Alcohol helps me socialize better." By way of its effects on reducing self-focused attention, many feel less uncomfortable around people when drinking. Unfortunately, this effect is brief and decreases if more than a small amount of alcohol is consumed. The social effects which then emerge vary from person to person, but include: obnoxiousness, aggressiveness, withdrawal, and impulsiveness.

* "If I drink coffee or eat something it will sober me up." Once alcohol is in your bloodstream, there is nothing you can eat or drink to hasten metabolism. Certain other chemicals, like caffeine, can "open your eyes," but you are just as impaired.

As my own father often said, “Read em’ and weep”. But, after reading through all of the myths that some kids carry with regard to alcohol, be sure to talk to your kids and share these myths, then share the facts, …… then hide the alcohol!

It has been my experience that many adolescents will experiment with alcohol when it is available and when their parents are not home or are sleeping. Again, educate your child and then remove the temptation! Hang in there!

Paul W. Reeves

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