Module 4: Talking With Your Children About Alcohol

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Introduction

True or False

Impact of Alcohol

Binge Drinking and Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol and The Law

Party Planning: Taking Responsibility

Drinking and School: Bill 212

Starting the Conversation

Helpful Tips For Responsible Drinking

Wrap-Up

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Welcome to "Talking With Your Children About Alcohol," the fourth interactive module in our "Talk About Drugs” series. This series was developed by Peel Public Health to help you as parents talk to your children about drugs. My name is Clair and I’ll be your guide for this module. We will look at facts and Canadian laws about the drug alcohol, and how to start talking about alcohol with your children.

 

As parents, our relationship with our children is one of the main influences on whether or not they will choose to use drugs. But we also know many other people have an influence over our children. These modules are meant for anyone that cares for and nurtures a child, including parents, caregivers, grandparents, older siblings and others.

 

It's time to introduce some of the people who will be sharing their insights and experience related to talking about drugs: Barry, his daughter Kim; Eve and her son Ryan.

 

TRUE OR FALSE

 

As with most drugs, there are a lot of misperceptions about alcohol. So let's take a moment and begin with a brief quiz. Are the statements here true or false?

 

True or False: Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among youth. This is True. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug among youth.

 

True or False: Alcohol affects everyone the same way. This is False. Every person is different in terms of the impact alcohol has on the body.

 

True or False: Binge drinking is when you drink five or more alcoholic drinks in a short amount of time. This is True. Binge drinking means having five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion.

 

True or False: It is legal to give alcohol to anyone under 19 if it is in your home. This is False. It is not legal to give alcohol to anyone under the age of 19.

 

True or False: If someone drinks alcohol on your property and gets drunk or injured, you are responsible for them. This is True. Even if you aren’t present and aren’t aware your children or their friends are drinking in your home or on your property, you are held accountable under the law.

 

IMPACT OF ALCOHOL

 

As parents, it's hard to imagine that teens, and sometimes pre-teens, are drinking alcohol. But consider some statistics in our own community:

·         By grade 7, one out of 10 children will have used alcohol.

·         By grade 9, three out of 10 children will have used alcohol.

·         By grade 12, seven out of 10 children are consuming alcohol.

·         Even more concerning is that of those children who drink, six out of 10 binge drink.

 

Alcohol can have a lot of negative effects on health that increase over time. The longer you have been drinking the higher your risk. Some effects include: the need to drink more to feel the same high, blacking out or not remembering drinking, addiction, and serious health problems like alcohol poisoning, cancer and liver disease.

 

Every person is different in terms of the impact alcohol has on the body. This is based on: how much you drink; how quickly you drink; if you’re a man or a woman, or a boy or a girl; your body type; whether or not you have eaten before drinking; what other drugs are in your body (it doesn’t matter if these drugs are prescribed by your doctor, over the counter or illegal).

 

BINGE DRINKING AND ALCOHOL POISONING

 

Binge drinking among youth is both common and concerning. Binge drinking means having five or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion. The amount of alcohol consumed by binge drinking can put a person at great risk for making bad choices that cause harm and danger. The results can include: acts of violence; unhealthy sexual choices; getting behind the wheel of a car...or being a passenger in a car with someone else who is drinking; and getting sick or injured.

 

Binge drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning happens when a person’s body can no longer deal with the amount of alcohol in their body. If a person continues to drink, their body can shut down. Alcohol poisoning is an emergency situation. Signs of alcohol poisoning include: being unable to wake up, vomiting while asleep, slow breathing or pulse, and feeling cold, pale or having blue skin. If you see any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

 

ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS

 

Mixing alcohol with other drugs, including caffeine or prescription drugs from your doctor, is harmful. This can increase the effects that alcohol has on your body. The results of mixing alcohol with drugs can be severe, even life threatening and can result in: nausea and vomiting, headaches, heart problems, difficulties in breathing, and overdose.

 

ALCOHOL AND THE LAW

 

When it comes to our children drinking alcohol, we not only have parental responsibilities, we have legal responsibilities as well. And you need to be aware of them, because you could be criminally charged or sued if you break the law. You should know that the legal drinking age in Ontario is 19.

 

Are the statements here true or false?

 

True or False: It’s illegal to give alcohol to anyone under 19, except if it is to your children in a private setting when you are present. This is True. It’s illegal to give alcohol to anyone under 19, except if it is to your children in a private setting when you are present.

 

True or False: When they are drinking, you are responsible for your children and their friends until they are sober, even if they drink and leave the property. This is True. When they are drinking, you are responsible for your children and their friends until they are sober, even if they drink and leave the property.

 

True or False: Even if you aren’t present and aren’t aware your children or their friends are drinking in your home or on your property, you are held accountable under the law. This is True. Even if you aren’t present and aren’t aware your children or their friends are drinking in your home or on your property, you are held accountable under the law.

 

PARTY PLANNING: TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

 

As children get older, they will likely attend and want to host parties. As a parent, you have to discuss ground rules in order to create a safer environment for everyone. I'd like to ask our parents to share some of the ground rules that they've established with their children. Barry?

 

Barry: “Before the party even starts, I make it very clear to my daughter and her friends that there is no alcohol allowed. None. And just so no one is tempted, I hide or lock up any bottles of alcohol. I make it very clear that the party is invitation only and those without one will be asked to leave. We always make sure that one of us stays at home to supervise. If for some reason we can't be there, we have another trusted adult stand in for us. We also don't allow invited guests who have left the party back into the house or onto our property.”

 

These guidelines not only protect children, but they also protect parents who are ultimately responsible for what happens to underage guests on their property. For more information on the seriousness of that liability, refer to Alcohol, Teens and Catastrophe: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Avoiding Alcohol Liability.

 

DRINKING AND SCHOOL: BILL 212

 

Under the Education Act, if your children appear drunk or have alcohol at school, the principal can choose to suspend them. A principal will suspend your children and consider expulsion if he or she is believed to be sharing alcohol with other students or selling alcohol at school.

 

STARTING THE CONVERSATION

 

We now have learned a great deal about alcohol and children. But one question remains unanswered. How do you start the conversation? Let’s drop in on a conversation Eve had with Ryan around trying alcohol. Reflect on how you think she handled it.

 

Ryan: “Mom, can I please try a sip of your wine?”

 

Eve: “We’ve been through this before. I don’t want you drinking alcohol.”

 

Ryan: “But what’s the big deal?”

 

Eve: “Because I said so.”

 

Ryan: “That’s not a reason!”

 

Eve: “The discussion is over. I said no and that’s that.”

 

Eve’s response ignores Ryan’s question and shows that she has the power in their relationship by being controlling and dismissive. Try explaining your reasons for the rules you set. Kids always want to know why rules are in place. Because Eve wouldn’t take the time to explain her rules on alcohol to Ryan he acted disrespectfully by talking back. Let’s try that scenario again using the strategies we discussed in earlier modules.

 

Ryan: “Mom, can I please try a sip of your wine?”

 

Eve: “No, Ryan, we've been through this before. I don’t want you drinking at your age because it can be bad for your health. Plus, we do not allow underage drinking in this house. When you grow up you can try alcohol safely and responsibly.”

 

Ryan: “But I am older. How old do I have to be? When will you let me know I’m old enough?”

 

Eve: “Ryan you're only nine. The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19. But we can continue to talk about alcohol because it's important that you learn about it. Is there anything else on your mind you want to talk about?”

 

Ryan may still be upset over Eve’s response; she may not have given him the answer he wanted to hear. However, she has provided him with an answer and has offered to continue talking about alcohol, which shows respect.

 

Eve’s Response:

·         Provides explanation

·         Reviews family rules

·         Talks about the law

·         Reflects on their family values

 

The Outcome was that Ryan feels respected and heard and this left the door open for further conversation. While we can't always control the decisions our children make, we do have complete control over our actions as role models.

 

TIPS FOR RESPONSIBLE DRINKING

 

Helpful tips for responsible drinking include:

         Don’t make it seem like alcohol is a way to deal with stress or a way to always celebrate an occasion.

         Don’t get drunk in front of your children.

         You don’t always have to accept a drink when it’s offered to you.

         Make sure to have food and non-alcoholic drinks available for any guests you have in your home

         Don’t drink and drive if you have had alcohol.

         Don’t let anyone drive after they have had alcohol.

 

WRAP-UP

 

Please note: If your child or someone you know displays signs of serious drug use, don’t be afraid to seek help. Consider speaking to your family doctor, or visit talkaboutdrugs.ca for a list of community resources.

 

To learn more visit TalkAboutDrugs.ca.

 

Thanks for joining me. And remember, talk early and talk often.