Talking to kids about alcohol | Ascension

Talking to kids about alcohol

It’s the phone call that all parents fear: a call alerting them that their child has been admitted to the ER. Terri will never forget the call that roused her out of bed one morning.

When she arrived at Ascension Sacred Heart, she learned that her 13-year-old son, who had spent the night at a friend’s house for a Halloween party, had stopped breathing overnight and was being life-flighted to Studer Family Children’s Hospital.

“He made the decision to sneak shots with friends at a party and he found out the hard way that drinking isn’t fun and games,” Terri said. “I didn’t realize that at 13, peer pressure and drinking were already a reality for him.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, children as young as nine years old already start viewing alcohol in a more positive way. The average age teen boys first try alcohol is age 11, for teen girls it's 13.

With social media exposing kids to information at a younger age, Sonja Rodgerson, an Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart behavioral health therapist who works with adults and children, said it’s never too early for parents to start talking to their kids about the dangers of alcohol.

“Parents need to be open and honest with their children about the fact that alcohol is a drug and that it’s illegal to consume it before they are 21 years old,” she said. “Alcohol can affect the normal development of their brains.”

Rodgerson said research shows alcohol negatively impacts children’s problem-solving skills and performance at school. They are also more likely to be involved in alcohol-related crashes.

The holidays provide more opportunities for kids to engage in underage drinking, Rodgerson said. “If you are hosting an adult party with alcohol present, you should be monitoring the alcohol and where the kids are at all times.”

Terri is grateful that her story has a happy ending. After spending his birthday in the intensive care unit, her son had a full recovery. She said it’s not easy sharing her story, but she hopes that by doing so other parents won’t have to go through a similar experience.

For more information on pediatric behavioral health, call 850-746-4961 or visit this link.