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Going Gray

So, it’s pretty universally known that the legal drinking age is 21. And it’s pretty universally known that some or many or maybe even most kids will not turn 21 having never had a beer or at least a few sips of a Truly or whatever. And we all know the quickest way to get a teenage brain interested in something is to tell it that it is absolutely forbidden.

So what’s a somewhat hip and current mom to do? No, seriously. What do we do? Do we look the other way and accept risk taking behaviors in degrees? As with all things - it’s the gray areas that cause all the problems.

Example: speeding. The speed limit sign on Rt. 1 says 65. Daughter’s driver ed instructor encouraged her to get her speed a little bit above that, since the flow of traffic was going at an easy 70. Is it speeding? Sure is. Is it a good decision? Probably, since going too slow is not really safe either.

So, if the black and white law is that it is illegal to drink alcohol before you are 21 years old, should you? Is it like speeding? Is it okay to speed a little, and keep up with the flow of traffic except when traffic is excessively fast, and then slow down or choose a different road?

Apply the same parameters to drinking. Should we allow or even encourage kids to have a few sips here or there, to have a beer or two the summer before college so they can get a sense of what’s coming when we send them out into the world with only their good judgement and the knowledge that their parents love them very much?

And, if it’s okay the summer before college - is it okay the summer before that? And the summer before that? I don’t know. But I know that I’ve been trusting science for a long, long time and the science says this:

Drinking alcohol can damage a child’s health and negatively impact the normal development of vital organs, including the brain, liver, bones and hormones. And, alcohol consumption can lead to increased rates of accidents and impair judgment, among other longer term health concerns. And, the more you consume, the worse the impacts.

So, as with all things, it comes down to clear and effective communication. Ask the tough questions and have the hard conversations. Yes, kids are going to engage in risk-taking behavior and yes, it is a risk-taking behavior to drink alcohol when you are a kid *even though* mom and dad do it. Find your line and draw it and do it clearly and circle back and have the hard conversation a lot of times, and then do it again and again.

The more clear we can make the gray areas, the easier our kids will have it when they are faced with making their own hard choices.

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