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Many parents realize that when kids become teens, they will at some point be faced with pressure to try alcohol. What many probably don’t realize is that first-time alcohol use among teens follows a pattern and doubles in the months of June and December.


For many, the winter holidays are a time to indulge. Alcohol sales are higher than average, possibly due to the popularity of alcohol as a gift and the tendency to upgrade to a pricier version of many liquors to serve at holiday gatherings.

December is the most popular month to purchase specialty cordials. (One store in Montana reports sales of Baileys triple in December.) These sweeter, sipping beverages are frequently the alcohol of choice for first-time drinkers.

The holiday season also typically brings an increase in social commitments, making parents too busy and distracted to monitor their teens the same way they do at other times of the year.

We know that teens are curious, and many are determined to experiment. Although alcohol is a somewhat controlled substance (limited to those age 21 and over), we live in a society that encourages the use and sometimes the abuse of alcohol. Most social activities include or even revolve around drinking. Many forget that alcohol is a chemical substance. The effects can be very much like those of drugs.

Some parents make the decision to allow their kids to try alcohol, thinking it better to experience its effects in a somewhat controlled environment. This may not be a good idea.

As reported in Science Daily, “In a study of 428 Dutch families, researchers found that the more teenagers were allowed to drink at home, the more they drank outside of home as well.” Not surprisingly, teens who drank often had a higher incidence of problem drinking two years later. “The findings, according to van der Vorst, suggest that teen drinking begets more drinking – and, in some cases, alcohol problems – regardless of where and with whom they drink.”

Though many look to European alcohol regulation (or lack thereof) as a model, a survey of 15- and 16-year-olds in Europe indicate there is more teen drunkenness in Europe than in the US.

Alcohol researcher Caitlin Abar from Pennsylvania State University says, “It really calls into question the strategy that parents are adopting of the European drinking model. The most protective strategy for parents is to make it really clear to their teens that they completely disapprove of underage alcohol use.” Abar states that parents with a zero tolerance policy will not necessarily prevent their kids from drinking, but that these teens tend to drink less.

This is backed up by research

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 80 percent of young people report parents have the greatest influence over whether they drink. SAMHSA’s program, Talk, They Hear You, encourages parents to start talking to their kids as early as age nine about alcohol and the associated dangers.

Noting that when teens drink, they do so excessively, William D. Crano at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, CA, focused on conditions in adolescence to see whether these conditions could predict teenage alcohol abuse. He found that paying attention to what teens are doing and providing a supportive family environment can go a long way to prevent binge drinking.

Your habits make a difference

Parents’ behavior sends a message to their kids about what is acceptable. While acknowledging that kids will form their own ideas about alcohol, Crano believes that parents should talk about drinking, saying, “You want to be the person to help them.

A study done by Christine Jackson at RTI International in Durham, NC, goes further and suggests that allowing children to taste alcohol at home “simply teaches them that parents don’t mind if they have alcohol.” She adds, “allowing children to have alcohol increases their odds of underage drinking during adolescence.

Instead Jackson advocates a home-based parenting program that promotes an alcohol-free childhood. In a study evaluating such a program, those participating were significantly less likely to drink four years later.

Binge drinking is a real problem

In 1994, Harvard’s Alcohol Study established what is still the definition of a drinking binge: five or more drinks in a row for a man, and four or more for a woman. Binge drinkers of today often have 10 or more drinks in a night. Though the numbers indicate that fewer students are binge drinking, many of these are now doing so to the extreme.

A study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Health Education found that 77 percent of college freshmen “drink to get drunk.” What today’s college student calls being drunk is oftentimes what an expert would define as being in a blackout.

Some scary stats

More than a third of teens have a drink before age 15; almost two thirds have tried it by the time they are 18.

Studies show that those who drink before age 15 are six times more likely to become addicted.

Eleven percent of alcohol consumed in the US is consumed by 12- to 20-year-olds.

Those who engaged in underage binge drinking had higher arrest rates 8 to 14 years later.

According to SAMHSA, those who regularly engage in underage drinking are at a higher risk of using other drugs, engaging in risky behavior (including unprotected sex), doing poorly in school, and having serious health issues such as depression and anxiety.

A UVA study showed that about half of alcohol related deaths among American college students at four-year institutions were caused by drunk driving.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that up to 70 percent of water recreation deaths are also related to alcohol use.

Each year, according to the NIH…

• an estimated 599,000 students are unintentionally injured while under the influence

• an estimated 696,000 students are assaulted by another student who has been drinking

• an estimated 97,000 students are victims of alcohol related sexual assault or date rape

College students who drink regularly are more likely to miss classes, earn poor grades, or even drop out altogether.

Walking the line between intrusive and aware

If you are the parent of a teenager, you know these conversations can be difficult. Rather than starting with a lecture, ask your teen if he or she has witnessed underage drinking and ask his or her thoughts on the subject. Explain your concerns and make suggestions on how to avoid the pressure to drink.

Pay attention to the messages you give about alcohol. How do you talk about drinking? Do you say you “need a drink” after a hard day at work? Do you drive after having a drink? It is possible, even likely, that your child will ask you why you drink. If you have a complicated relationship with alcohol, this can be a difficult question to answer.

If you are hosting a party, do not serve teens. If both adults and teens will be guests, make sure adult beverages and soft drinks are located in separate areas. If the party is just teens, make your presence known. You can do this without being obvious by regularly walking by with more food. Confiscate any alcohol brought by a teenager.

Know what your kids are doing. Know where they are and who they are spending time with. Help them find productive ways to spend their time. A study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse indicates that a bored teen is 50 percent more likely to drink, smoke, or use illegal drugs.

If your teen is going to a party, ask if there will be alcohol. Don’t assume that the laws will be followed. Fact check if you have doubts. Look for evidence when you drop your child off.

Let your teen know that he or she can call you for a ride. Save the lecture for another day.

Talk to your teens about drinking

Be honest about your past. If you drank as a teen, point out why it was a bad idea. This came up recently in our home. I told my children that much was different then. At the time, the legal drinking age was 18 where I lived. Brain science had not yet discovered that our brains are still maturing into our 20s or how much alcohol could affect a growing brain.

You might want to share some stories (about yourself or people you know) and point out some of the bad, even potentially dangerous, decisions that were made while under the influence.

Like other difficult parent-child conversations, it is ideal to start to talk often and early. Don’t just say “Don’t drink.” Offer realistic limits, or ways to “fake,” such as nursing a drink or drinking lookalikes (plain soda out of red Solo cup does the trick). Suggest some possible excuses, like “I’ll get in trouble with my coach,” etc.

It’s also important to set hard and fast rules: no drinking and driving, no binge drinking, and calling for help if things get out of control.

Most importantly, be available. Your kids need to know they can come to you if they or one of their friends has made poor choices and needs help. That said, they may be embarrassed or feel they have disappointed you, and not come to you as a result. Let them know about other trusted people who can help, such as doctors, school counselors, or clergy.

Teens are not small adults, alcohol affects them differently

Brain science has come a long way in the past few decades. We have learned that the human brain develops well into one’s 20s. It has been a long-accepted fact that alcohol can have damaging effects on brain cells, but we are just learning that the damage to teens and young adults can be even greater.

Alcohol limits what teens can do, thwarting chances to learn and subsequently not meeting their potential. Alcohol reduces inhibitions, causing riskier behavior at an age already predisposed to such behavior.

In addition, teens are susceptible to addiction due to the plasticity of younger brains. Since there is also a potential genetic component, teens with a family history of alcoholism or mental health issues have to be more aware.

Parents need to understand all this and, as with other grown-up issues, give independence gradually. Teens don’t simply wake up one morning as adults ready to make responsible decisions. They need education and guidance.

They also need to recognize that not everyone is affected by alcohol in the same way. The popular weight chart, indicating how many drinks one can have before becoming intoxicated, can be useful, but not relied on. If one is drinking on an empty stomach, for example, alcohol has a different effect. People of the same weight don’t always metabolize alcohol at the same rate. Each person is different.

Taking cold or other medicine can cause one to become intoxicated quicker and can also have potentially dangerous effects, especially to the liver.

Watch for signs of a problem

Know the risk factors that increase the likelihood your teen may have or develop a problem: depression, a family history of alcoholism, or issues with peer relationships. Teens with a family history of alcoholism are four times more likely to have a drinking problem of their own.

Unfortunately, many signs that your teen may be abusing alcohol (moodiness, resisting family rules, a change of interests and/or friends, problems in school) can also be caused by other factors. It may even be normal teen behavior. Jumping to conclusions and making accusations can backfire, so you might want to investigate quietly.

Trending in the right direction

Though it’s wise to be vigilant, don’t let the statistics worry you too much. Teenage alcohol use as a whole is on the decline. According to a CDC survey, the number of teens who had tried alcohol dropped from 81.6 percent to 63.2 percent between 1991 and 2015. Those who reported having five or more drinks in one night went from 31.3 to 17.7. Today a third of teens drink, down from 50 percent 25 years ago.

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One of the hardest areas to declutter can be your children's toy closet. Does that beeping, singing firetruck spark joy for you? Well no, in fact, it might be the most frustrating toy, but then again, having an occupied, entertained child sparks more joy than all of your household items combined.

So do more toys really mean a more engaged child? Studies say no. Having fewer toys leads to a more ordered home and encourages your child to develop creativity, concentration and a sense of responsibility for taking care of their belongings. But how do you go about reducing the number of toys your child has when there are so many "must haves" on the market? Perhaps more importantly, how do you ensure you don't bring any more toys that will be quickly forgotten into your home?

The secret: Look for toys that are open-ended, toys that will last for years, toys that encourage creativity, and toys that benefit development.

Here are some of our favorite Montessori-inspired toys.

Open-ended construction


Toys that are open-ended, rather than have just one use, empower your child to be an active participant in their own play. An example of an open-ended toy is a set of blocks, while a more limited use toy might be a talking toy robot. Blocks are only fun if your child applies their own creative thinking skills to make them fun, while the robot is a much more passive type of entertainment.

Open-ended toys also tend to keep children's interest for much longer, as they grow with your child—as their skills develop, they can build increasingly complex structures and scenarios.

There are so many beautiful sets of blocks available, but here are a few good choices.

1. Wooden Blocks

2. Duplo Lego

3. Magnatiles

Pretend play


Beginning in early toddlerhood, many children begin to incorporate pretend play into their repertoire. They do this all on their own, without the aid of toys, turning mud into pies and sticks into hammers.

Still, these toys will encourage their budding imaginations and also allow them to process things they experience in their own lives through role-playing and pretend play.

4. Doll

5. Farm

6. People figures

7. Train set

Music


Music provides a great deal of joy to most children, and can also aid in brain development.

Providing regular opportunities for your young child to both create and listen to music will encourage him to develop an appreciation for music, an understanding of rhythm, and an outlet for creative expression.

8. Musical instrument set

9. Simple music player with headphones

Movement


Giving young children opportunities for movement is so important, both for their gross motor development and for giving them a daily outlet for their boundless energy. Children who spend plenty of time running around generally sleep better and are often better able to concentrate on quieter activities like reading.

Encouraging plenty of unstructured time outside is the best way to ensure your child gets enough daily movement. These toys though can help your child develop muscle coordination and strength, while also providing plenty of fun.

10. Balance bike

11. Pedal bike

12. Climbing structure

13. Wagon

14. Balls

Puzzles


Puzzles are wonderful toys for helping children develop spatial understanding, problem-solving skills, resilience and new vocabulary. Bonus, they also provide a quiet activity that can engage even young children for an extended period of time!

15. Peg puzzles

16. Jigsawpuzzles

17. Layered puzzles

Games



Games encourage your child to develop social skills such as taking turns and winning and losing gracefully.

Many games for young children also have educational benefits such as building memory or practicing counting.

18. Memory game

19. Bingo

20. Simple board game

Taking the plunge and reducing your children's toy collection can be scary. If you're uncertain whether your child will miss a certain toy, try putting it away in a closet for a month to see if they notice. Take some time to observe your child with their reduced toy collection and notice how their play changes.

Once you commit to fewer toys, you'll find you can truly be intentional with what you provide your child and can also choose higher quality toys when you're only purchasing a few. There will also be far fewer little objects strewn around the house to trip over, which is a huge bonus!

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For so many parents, finding and funding childcare is a constant struggle. How would your life change if you didn't have to worry about finding and paying for quality childcare? Would you go back to work? Work more hours? Or just take the four figures you'd save each month and pay off your student loans faster?

These hypothetical scenarios have been playing in the minds of many American parents this week as presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren unveiled her plan for free or affordable "high-quality child care and early education for every child in America."

Universal childcare will be a cornerstone of Warren's campaign for 2020. It's a lofty goal, and one many parents can get behind, but is it doable?

Supporters note it's been done in other countries for decades. In Finland, for example, every child has had access to free universal day care since the early 1990s. Sweden, too, has been building its universal childcare system for decades.

Critics of Warren's plan worry about the price tag and potential for ballooning bureaucracy, and some are concerned that subsidizing childcare could actually make it more expensive for those who have a government-funded spot, as it could result in fewer private childcare providers.

But subsidized childcare had lowered prices in other places. In Sweden, parents pay less than $140 USD to send children to preschool. In Finland, the cost per child varies by municipality, household income and family size. A parent on the lower end of the income spectrum might pay as little as the equivalent of $30 USD, and the maximum fee is about $330 a month.

But Finland's population is on par with Minnesota's. Sweden is comparable to Michigan.

So could the Nordic model scale to serve the hundreds of millions of families in America?

As Eeva Penttila, speaking as the head of international relations for Helsinki, Finland's education department once told The Globe and Mail, "you can't take one element out and transfer it to your own country. Education is the result of culture, history and the society of a nation."

Right now America spends less on early childhood education than most other developed countries (only Turkey, Latvia, and Croatia spend less), but that wasn't always the case. This nation does have a history of investing in childcare, if we look back far enough.

Back in World War II, when women needed to step into the workforce as men fought overseas, America invested in a network of childcare to the tune of $1 billion (adjusted to today's money) and served hundreds of thousands of families in almost every state through center-based care. Parents paid between $0.50 and $0.75 per child per day (the equivalent of about $10 in today's money).

So America does have a historical and cultural precedent, not to mention a current model of universal preschool that is working, right now, in the nation's capital. In D.C. In Washington, D.C., 90% of 4-year-olds attend a full-day preschool program for free, according to the Center for American Progress. Seventy percent of 3-year-old are going too, and the program has increased the city's maternal workforce participation rate by more than 10%.

It won't happen overnight

While some American parents might be daydreaming of a life without a four-figure day care bill in 2020, the road to true universal childcare for all children in America would be a long one. Peter Moss, a researcher at the University of London's Institute of Education, previously told The Globe and Mail it took Sweden "many years to get it right."

Indeed, the 1990s saw long wait lists at Swedish day cares, but the growing pains of the '90s paved the way for the enviable system Swedes enjoy today.

According to Moss, governments in other countries look at the Nordic model and "tend to say, 'We can't do that.' But what they really mean is 'We can't suddenly do that.' In other countries, they just don't get to grips with what needs doing and actually plot a course."

Maybe America's starting point is found in its history books, or in the modern day preschools of the nation's capital, or in the conversations happening between now and 2020. It doesn't have to be Warren's plan, but America does need a plan for safer, more affordable childcare.

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It's so unfortunate that in the working world there are still those who believe mothers are more distracted and less productive than people without children.

Research proves that just isn't true—working moms are actually more engaged than working dads and fathers and equally committed—and plenty of working mothers will say that parenthood has actually made them more productive.

Ayesha Curry counts herself among those moms who become more efficient at work after becoming parents. The entrepreneurial mom of three seems unstoppable when it comes to expanding her career, which she launched as a lifestyle blog back when the oldest of her three children was still a baby.

"You don't realize how much you can get done in a day until you become a parent and you're like, 'what was I doing with my time before'?" she recently old Cheddar's Nora Ali.

Now less than seven years later she's built her own empire as a mom, not in spite of being one.


Now a New York Times best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur, Curry has also got her own brand, Homemade, and you can find her products bearing her name in places like Target and JC Penny. She's been promoting a partnership with GoDaddy and she's an ambassador for the Honest Company, too.

Curry says motherhood taught her how to multitask and manage her time.

"I have three children, so I've had to grow four invisible arms," she explains. "I've definitely learned efficiency through being a parent. It's helped me in my business tenfold."

As a celebrity, Curry's life experience is kind of unique, but her experience of becoming better at work because of motherhood isn't, according to experts.

Career coach Eileen Chadnick previously told Motherly that motherhood is an asset in the workplace, in part because it trains women to be both empathetic and assertive at the same time, a combo that makes for great leaders. "There are incredibly nice, compassionate women who are very strong and know how to take a stand," Chadmick said. "And they're trusted and admired by others even if they need to say 'no' to their employees."

That's something Curry agrees with. Because it's her name on that frying pan, cookbook or bedspread, she doesn't shy away from saying 'no' when she doesn't like something. "I'm really good about being forceful and putting my foot down," she explains.

It's easier to put your foot down when you've already grown four invisible arms. That's the balancing act of motherhood, and it's what makes this mama so good at business.

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It may seem like there are more recalls than ever these days, but that's actually a good thing for parents. It means fewer potentially dangerous products are making it to our dinner tables and medicine cabinets.

According to food safety experts, the spike in recall notices for everything from broccoli to baby toys in recent years suggests companies are doing a better job of self-reporting, and we're actually safer than we were in the days when recalls were rare.

"It reflects a food industry that takes contamination and foodborne illnesses seriously. Increasingly companies are willing to recall their products rather than expose customers to potential harm," Dr. William Hallman, professor and chair of Rutgers Department of Human Ecology, said in an interview with Food Drive."So more companies are taking a cautionary approach."

Here are the recalls parents need to know about this month:

Dollar General Baby Gripe Water

The FDA issued a recall notice for "DC Baby Gripe Water herbal supplement with organic ginger and fennel extracts" after the company received one report of a one-week old baby who had difficulty swallowing the product, and there were three other complaints "attributed to the undissolved citrus flavonoid."

The FDA says "the product should not be considered hazardous but could result in difficulty when swallowing the product for sensitive individuals."

Basically, it's not harmful if swallowed but the undissolved flavonoid makes it a choking hazard.

The gripe water was sold at Dollar General stores in four ounce bottles with the UPC code 8 5495400246 3.

Nature's Path Envirokidz gluten free cereals

If you've got a kiddo with celiac disease you're probably familiar with the EnviroKidz kine of gluten free cereals sold at Trader Joe's and other grocery stores. Unfortunately, Nature's Path, the maker of the cereals, is recalling more than 400,000 boxes of Envirokidz cereals in the U.S. and Canada due to potential gluten contamination.

Choco Chimp, Gorilla Munch and Jungle Munch are all impacted. The best before dates are: 08/01/2019, 08/24/2019, 08/27/2019, and 09/21/2019. The UPC codes are: 0 58449 86002 0, 0 5844987023 4, 0 5844987027 2, 0 5844987024 1 and 0 5844987028 9.

If you can handle gluten they are safe, but Nature's Path says "people who have a wheat allergy, celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten and wheat should not consume the cereals."

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