PARENTAL CONCERNS Teri did not realize the impact of allowing her son to drink on special occasions. Like most parents, Teri thought that by allowing him to have a small glass of wine or a beer on “special occasions” like families do in many European countries, she was teaching him adult values and moderation. Studies show this is not the case. In the U.S., there are fewer youth who experience problems associated with alcohol compared to European countries where the drinking age is lower than 21. Based on Teri’s learning new information, she was willing to change and no longer allowed her son to drink during special occasions until he turns 21. When asked how her son might respond, she said he might protest (“you let me before, why now?”). She said she would let him know what she has learned and that she would not want to do something that would hurt him. Teri also worried he might change and not be as open or honest with her. Interestingly, studies have shown that when parents explain to their children why they have changed their minds, their children are more open and honest compared to those whose parents allow their children to drink. While this seems a little counterintuitive, children are intelligent and they appreciate their parents’ honesty and concern for them.
The research also shows there are additional things that Teri can do to reduce the odds of her son experiencing consequences associated with combined alcohol and marijuana use. 1. Studies show that when parents allow their high school children to have a small glass of wine or a beer on “special occasions,” they are likely to drink more often and in greater amounts when they are not with their parents. Unfortunately, the studies also indicated that the harm from letting their children drink even a little could not be changed by better parent communication, modeling, or monitoring. The impact on risk was the same no matter how good the parents were at communicating or how mature the children seemed to be. 2. These same studies show that allowing the use of alcohol on these special occasions is also related to combining alcohol and marijuana (and experiencing consequences). When Teri and her husband allow their son to drink on special occasions, they may have unknowingly increased his risk of combining alcohol and marijuana and experiencing consequences. 3. Research shows that use of alcohol before the age of 21 is a risk factor for alcohol and marijuana consequences. One way for Teri to change her son’s risk is to no longer allow him to drink during special occasions until he turns 21.
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