Laws, social norms and unintended messages
Youth are told that alcohol is bad for them throughout a large majority of their childhood years, by society, school, parents etc…, and we even have laws that reinforce that message, but what happens when you are getting close to turning 21? Ask yourself what you were asked by those same people whom warned you against drinking in the first place. All of a sudden youth are being encouraged to go out drink, just because they are turning of a legal age.
My dilemma with this is that we send mixed messages to our friends, family and loved ones. When your 21st birthday got close did family, friends etc… ask if you were going to go out and drink or even get drunk? Did you go out and drink just because you were turning 21 and it was now legal to do so? I took a small poll at my office and every one of the people I asked had been asked if they were going to go out and drink all of them responded “yes” they were asked.
When our twins turned 21, I noticed that they were getting ready to go out for their birthday. We really don’t make a big deal out of birthdays, especially as the children got older so to be honest I had forgot that they had even turned 21. I asked them where they were going, and I have to love the honesty of my children, one of them said “to a bar.” I thought that they were joking, and said “No really, where are you going?” This went back and forth 2-3 times, before I realized they were serious, so I asked them why. I was told, like most young people, it was their 21st birthday and they were going out with friends to have their first drink.
So, I asked “So you are going out to drink Just Because, you turned 21 and can?” The answer was important because our children are very rational thinkers, and doing something just because is not a rational thought. The answered yes, so I commented that having a drink just because wasn’t a good reason. I said if you had told me we are going out to have a chocolate martini because I have always wondered if a chocolate martini really tastes like chocolate, that is a reason, not necessarily the best reason but a reason none the less.
Disclaimer: I am an over-protective parent., and in addition to the obvious concerns in regards to alcohol use/abuse: alcohol poisoning, vehicular accidents, DUI’s etc… my main concern was the long-term consequences: the psychological effects on our two quiet, reserved children, and the very real possibility that, that one drink would lead them down the same road of alcoholism as both of their grandfathers. The ending to this story is that my husband and I offered, as a one time only event, to host their birthday at our home, they could drink at our house with their friends, but everyone would turn over their driver’s licenses and keys, and only those of legal age would be allowed alcohol. I am sure it comes as no surprise that they turned us down, and to my knowledge still went out, but did not drink that night. Since then I know that Trent has had alcohol, since he joined the Marines, but to my knowledge Travis hasn’t.
The point of this story is that we need to maintain a consistency with our children on the possible consequences that can come from drinking throughout their lives not just when they are minors, but also as adults. Being responsible adults = making responsible choices.
We are ALL responsible for helping each other navigate the obstacles of life, so if you ask someone if they are going to drink on their 21st birthday, think about ways to encourage them to drink responsibly, to think through their actions, the reasons for their actions, and possible consequences. We need to encourage rational thinking.
One last note on the topic of thinking. I saw a movie last weekend titled “The Life of a King” with Cuban Gooding Jr. This is a great movie that illustrated the importance of teaching our youth to think before they act. The movie is based on real-life events in which Eugene Brown a convicted criminal for armed robbery is released from prison, and ends up teaching inner-city youth how to play Chess. The game is a life lesson in itself and the lessons that it teaches are important lessons for all of our youth to learn. Check it out.