Teaching Teens About Alcohol and Celebrations – Ask Dr. JPL

Teaching Teens About Alcohol and Celebrations – Ask Dr. JPL

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Question

Dear Dr. JPL: Many family celebrations, including births, birthdays, holidays, weddings, even funerals, tend to include serving alcohol for the adults as a way of “celebrating.” There is not an abuse of the alcohol, but it is a key ingredient in the celebration. How do you teach your children that alcohol is not a necessity to celebrate when their adult relatives and friends consistently send a different message?

Answer:

Every lesson with your children begins with a discussion. A good way to start is to ask for your child’s opinion about what he thinks about alcohol and celebrations. One major point to hit is that alcohol is for adults. Young bodies and brains do not respond the same way to alcohol as adults do.

Another important message to send is that alcohol may be part of a celebration but it is not the focus. We don’t blow out the candles in the wine bottle, but we do ooh and ahh over the cake and other food.

It is also important to answer the questions your children may be likely to ask if a friend or relative’s behavior suggests that they had one too many. Use these moments as an opportunity to highlight the negatives associated with drinking too much. Observed behavior can have a strong impact on your child especially when the behavior is exhibited by a loved one. By watching the negative consequences associated with drinking too much (e.g. acting in inappropriate and/or embarrassing ways, getting sick, and/or passing out) your children may learn an important lesson that will help them make better choices for themselves as they get older.

Also remember your children learn not only from what you say, but what you do. If you go out of your way to exclude alcohol from some of your celebrations you will reinforce your own thoughts and values regarding this issue.

ASK DR. JPL: Have a question about your own teen and alcohol? Ask our resident tween, teen and parenting expert, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder Psy.D, to help you have The Alcohol Talk with your child. Submit your questions on the Ask Dr. JPL page of this blog. Dr. JPL may answer your question on the blog to help other parents address similar issues with their children.

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Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder is one of the tween, teen and parenting experts that participated in the focus groups that helped form the new educational campaign and website, TheAlcoholTalk.com. Her expertise and vast experience were also tapped for much of the advice and guidance included on the site. Her unique understanding of the communication techniques necessary for The Alcohol Talk to effectively take place make her an ideal spokesperson for the campaign. Dr. Powell-Lunder is a clinical psychologist specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families. She is co-author of the book Teenage as a Second Language (Adams Media 2010) and the creator of www.itsatweenslife.com, an interactive and informational website for parents and tweens, and co-creator of www.Talkingteenage.com, an interactive informational website for the parents of teenagers. Jennifer is a regular contributor for outlets including Psychology Today, Parenting Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, GalTime, KnowMoreTV, Examiner, and North Texas Kids. She has also been featured in The Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL’s ParentDish, Mamapedia and many other blogs and websites. As a parenting expert on both radio and television programs including NPR’s Talk of the Nation, NBC’s TODAY in New York, Better TV and WCBS, FOX and ABC affiliates, Jennifer talks about tween, teen and parenting issues. She was profiled in Westchester Magazine’s January 2012 feature on ‘People to Watch Jennifer is a published researcher, in-demand speaker and consultant on tween, teen, and young adult issues. She spent almost a decade as a Program Director of an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit at a private psychiatric hospital in the Northeast where she now serves as Senior Clinical Liaison. She is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Pace University. Jennifer sits on the Board of Directors for Family Ties, a non-profit family advocacy agency serving Westchester County, NY and maintains a private outpatient practice in Bedford Hills, NY.

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