With Purim coming up, I am very nervous about kids getting drunk. I have a 16-year-old who will be going around with his friends collecting for their yeshivah. Should I let him go?
Purim and drinking. It’s an age-old problem that has been written and spoken about plenty. And yet, it is still a tremendous issue. I do not think telling your son to stay home is the answer. It might be better to speak with your children about these kinds of issues to prepare them for challenges they may face.
A conversation about alcohol requires preparation. Even before you have any kind of conversation with your teen, remember that you were a teen once too. It’s important to understand what it’s like to be a teenager today. Teenagers have fears, too; they worry about fitting in, and coping with peer pressure. So, take any judgment or criticism out of your mind when having a conversation. It is not enough to tell your teen, “You better not drink!” You need information to give them practical advice on how to deal with the issues important to them.
According Samhsa.gov, follow these guidelines to start the conversation about drinking:
Short, frequent discussions can have a real impact on your child’s decisions about alcohol.
Talking often builds an open, trusting relationship with your child.
Lots of little talks are more effective than one “big talk.”
When you do talk about alcohol, make your views and rules clear.
What you do is just as important as what you say.
Remember that the conversation goes both ways. Although talking to your child about your thoughts about alcohol is essential, it’s also important to hear their point of view. Give your child the opportunity to ask you questions and listen to what they have to say. The conversations may look something like this:
Don’t try to scare your child about drinking or tell him or her, “You can’t handle it.” Instead, explain that alcohol can be bad for his or her growing brain, how interferes with judgment, and can make him or her sick. Talk about how young people who drink are also more likely to have various health issues. Once kids hear the facts and your opinions about them, it is easier for you to make rules and enforce them.
Don’t let your past stop you from talking to your child about underage drinking. If you drank as a teenager, be honest. Acknowledge that it was risky. Make sure to emphasize that we now know even more about the risks to children who drink underage. Consider telling your children relatable stories about making smart decisions when it comes to alcohol. These could be stories that show the consequences of engaging in risky behavior.
Make a distinction between alcohol use among children and among adults. Explain your reasons for drinking: whether it is to enhance a meal, or lekavod Shabbos or Yom Tov. Point out that for adults drinking in moderation is not harmful to their bodies, and if you choose to drink it is always in moderation. Point out that adults are fully developed mentally and physically, so they can handle drinking. Children’s minds and bodies, however, are still growing, so alcohol can have a greater effect on their judgment and health.
Helping your child say “no” to peer pressure is one of the most important things you can do to keep him or her alcohol-free. Work with your child to think of a way to handle this situation, whether it is simply saying, “No, I don’t drink,” or “I have a test tomorrow,” or some other excuse. Help your child be prepared for the situation by discussing if they think other kids will be drinking and knowing in advance what may happen and how to work through it.
Without giving up on Purim, we can put safety measures in place to protect them. Overall it is not an easy task but as long as lines of communication remain open and without judgment, criticism or an unwillingness to listen, we can help our kids have a great Yom tov!
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