Our friend Joseph Kurian (Joe) while cleaning up his daughter Meera’s room found a bottle of Cognac. He wanted to know how to handle the situation. His fear, the usual one with all North American parents of teens – ‘Going against an 18 year old in America is like threading a mine field with no metal detectors.’
It is very common for kids high school kids to consume alcohol. I found many of my scotch bottles near empty a few times. I knew our son had done the job. He recently asked me as to why I never asked him about it. My reply was “Had it been your Dad, he would have poured water to maintain the level, ending up screwing the scotch. Thank God! You did not do it.”
Nikhil said “From where can High-School kids get alcohol? Obviously they got to take it from their dad’s bar. Else they have to take help of an adult to procure it from a store that calls for money. So the easiest way out is always resorted to by the teens and our parties cannot go ahead without alcohol.”
After his high school graduation party, they had after-party and after-after-party at other friend’s homes and we picked him up next morning at 11 AM. Marina asked him as to how the party was and he said “Most kids did not know how to drink. They threw up all over and many girls ended up crying. At the end I realised that every girl was out to stab every other girl in the back – Oh! These Girls are really complicated. We boys are much simpler. My group did not have any problem as I had taught them how to drink.”
“What have you learned?” Marina asked.
Nikhil explained that “You take a glass of water, take a bite before drinking. Take time with the first drink – Do not gulp it down. Take a bite, drink a glass of water, take a stroll through the party hall, dance for a song, release the pressure in the washroom if needed and the ritual continues for the entire night.”
Now Marina asked “Who taught you this?”
“Dad” came the instant answer.
Marina vented everything on to me to which Nikhil said “You do not teach swimming to a kid by standing on the ground. You got to put him in Water.”
Now Joe has to put Meera in Water and help her tread it. She needs an instructor, a coach to tread this ‘water’ and surely there is a need for a lifeguard. Who else can do this better than the Dad? All rolled into one.
Teens have been experimenting with alcohol. During teenage the kids are more vulnerable to addiction as the pleasure center of the brain matures much before the decision making part. Most of these teens give up on alcohol as they grow up as the ‘thrill’ dies down. Kids who have their first drink at age 14 or younger are six times more likely to develop alcohol problems than those who don’t try alcohol until the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA).
It is interesting to note that 19 countries do not lay down any MLDA like Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, China, Indonesia, etc.
Countries where MLDA is between 16 and 17 are Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, etc.
MLDA is between 18 and 19 in Australia, Canada, Cuba, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Vatican City, etc.
It is capped at 20 in Iceland, Japan, Paraguay, Thailand and Uzbekistan and is at 21 in USA, Sri Lanka etc.
In 16 countries it is illegal to consume alcohol; at any age – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.
In India MLDA is between 18 and 25. It varies by state. In New Delhi, MLDA is 25, while in Goa it is 18. For sure, no one implements it and there is no one to monitor it. Most of our nephews and nieces in India, Canada and US said they had alcohol during their high school days.
Binge drinking, that is consuming five or more drinks at a sitting, may cause teens to pass out, feel sick, or behave abnormally. As alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, drinking too much, too fast, slows bodily functions, resulting in the drinker to lose consciousness.
As a parent, grandparent, teacher, relative or friend, one has an important role to play. Kids from families where alcohol dependency or abuse is more appear to keep away from it. Preserving family rituals, such as keeping established daily routines and celebrating holidays, also can make a difference in steering kids clear of alcohol abuse.
The need of the hour is to openly communicate with the teens about alcohol. Many are not sure as to when to commence talking about it. The teens are always confused as to what to drink and when to commence. Mostly it is a group activity ending up in a ‘show-off’ scenario. The parents need to set the stage early by letting the teens know that they can talk to you about anything, without the heavens coming down.
Our nephew Jojy, an engineering graduate commented that had the situation like Meera’s happened to his sister at home, he cannot imagine the resultant actions. Marina often speaks to our kids about her father and my younger brother who went in for alcohol de-addiction programmes. She also speaks about her and my experiences with drinking.
It is very important for the parents to set a practical MLDA at home. The ultimate is communication with the children and in awkward situation, take a deep breath, think about your own teenage days and express your feelings in a positive way, without any finger pointing or pontification.
Teenage binge drinking is resorted to by many teens, but never deal with it lightly. It is ultimately your open communication and knowing your kid will pay rich dividends in all such matters.
My conversation with Joe ended with a note ‘Meera seems to be very classy – she got a costly Cognac bottle. Next would be a condom! So, start preparing for it. We will cross the bridge when it comes. I do not want to preempt you with my dose of advise.’