Towards sober teens this season
With a lot of wining and dining this December holidays, how do you keep your teenage children alcohol free this festive season?
December holidays come with a lot of fun— so many parties with a lot of dining and wining. Although alcohol shouldn’t be consumed by people below 18 years, we live in a society that encourages the use and sometimes the abuse of alcohol.
Most social activities during festive season include or even revolve around drinking. Various studies have revealed that many teenagers have their first drink at around this time.
Esther Wanjiru knows this too well and is determined to watch over her 13-year-old son, Alex Ngugi.
“I know at this time, teens are vulnerable, they want to try knew things and maybe, have a taste of what older people are doing, and that is why I will make sure he is close to me,” she says.
Wanjiru will also bank on mother-son bond and being open with each other.
“We will be having several gatherings, but I am sure he has acquired enough knowledge to know what is wrong and right and that is the one thing that has been able to make him grow up following the right path,” she says.
The 33-year-old mother of two says, she has always made a deliberate move to know his friends and she even invite them over for lunch to spend time with them.
It’s not any different for Carolyne Andeyo, who says one of the mechanism she will be using to ensure her 17-year-old does not get carried away by peer pressure is ensuring he joins a Christian Club union. This would distract him from the vices that may come his way during this festive season.
“I cannot guarantee I will be there to watch over him. The only way I can protect my child from alcohol and drugs is teaching him the right virtues,” says Andeyo.
And despite her being busy as a career mum, one things that keeps them close is that he is always willing to talk to her incase of any problem he could be going through.
According Jane Ngatia, director of training and counselling at East Africa Institute of Profession Counselling, says you cannot keep teens away from family gatherings.
However, she says that in as much as family gatherings would be great, parents shouldn’t make drinking so public, especially in front of their children.
“It may not have crossed your mind, but not drinking in front of teenagers can be important first steps to a lifelong habit of responsible drinking.
Be a good role model for your teen by showing them how to behave around alcohol. You can start by trying not to drink in front of your children when they are young and impressionable.
Children can be aware of parents’ consumption of alcohol from as young as three years old,” she says.
She adds: “Children tend to practice what they see and one of the causes of most teenagers drinking probably started through how they saw they parents behave.”
She believes another way that parents can ensure they protect their children is through being their close friends and having explicit conversations with them, especially on drugs, alcohol and sex.
“Knowledge is power. The moment you teach your child that it is wrong to drink alcohol, and they know it is bad, this will help in ensuring they don’t do that one mistake they are always warned against,” she advises.
Before your teen comes of age, take the time to explain the risks associated with excessive alcohol intake such as addiction, alcohol poisoning, potential liver damage as well as reduced awareness of surroundings and the loss of self-control.
You can share with your teens on the types of drinks that are high in alcohol content. For example, a small amount of hard liquor such as whisky or vodka has more “kick” than beer and what to expect if they get drunk.
There are also risks when one drinks too much, which may endanger their health and personal safety. It’s also appropriate to have a talk to debunk drinking myths such as how oily food does not help one stay sober.
Take it a step further by sharing tips with your teen on how they can say no or avoid drinking at social gatherings where they may be offered alcoholic drinks.
Also, since technology can be used in constructive and destructive ways, parents should make sure they minimise the time children spend on phones and on the internet.
“A teen can shop drinks online, so take charge of gadgets you have bought for your teen,” says Ngatia.
Another way children could be safe from the temptations they are likely to face during the festive season is, by keeping them busy even if it means releasing the help and assigning them tasks they can do in the house.