The recent news about the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to pull caffeinated alcohol drinks such as Four Loko off the market triggers a mixed reaction for me.
Part of me gets annoyed at how the media approaches issues relating to the dangers of drinking or drug use among our children. There is often a focus on fanning the fears of parents about the various “dangers lurking out there” for our kids. It’s scary, but the reality is that if a teenager really wants to get high or drunk, they will often find a way to do so.
A bigger part of me is glad the media hypes it because it’s an excellent opportunity to hear what our kid’s have to say about the issue. Given the opportunity, they’ll express their (often strong) opinions about the various aspects of the issue—the government involvement angle, the beverage-marketing angle, how the beverage does or doesn’t impair people, etc.
Research suggests that when we talk openly with our children about drugs and drinking, they are more likely to have better self-control and develop more negative perceptions about these risky behaviors.
The caffeinated-alcohol drink issue is a great opportunity to let our kids express their opinions about these drinks. When we’re able to put aside (for the moment at least!) our parental fears and judgments and just listen, there’s a greater likelihood that we’ll get a glimpse into the thoughts and lives of our teen, an opportunity to make a positive connection with our them, and to possibly help them reduce their risky behavior.