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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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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

Luckily, finding a system to help you plan out your days can help reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life—which we are all for.

Here are eight planners we love that'll quickly take you from "What is happening?!" to "Look what I did!"

1. Day Designer

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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