Durham News: Opinion

Wanda Boone: Music, alcohol and parenting

When visiting with a group of fourth graders (9-year-olds), I heard the song “I am going to marry Lil Wayne – Me and My Drank.”

The visit was making me dizzy. Seizing the opportunity and reaching back to my dusty parenting skills (our oldest is 37), I asked, “What is that song about”?

The students didn’t mind my intruding into their world. They saw this as an opportunity to teach this adult a thing or two. Lesson No. 1: Play dumb. “It’s about drinking.” Lesson No. 2: Stay calm.

“Wow, what’s fun about that?” I asked. “I don’t understand what they are talking about.”

Lesson No. 3: Let the wheels turn and leave the door open to revisit.

Much of today’s music promotes the use of alcohol and drugs and participating in risky behaviors. What is a parent to do? Listen to what your children listen to and discuss healthy choices. The tantrum(s) will subside and you will not be hated forever.

Parenting is hard, thankless, 24/7, 365 day job. Don’t believe anyone that tells you that parenting ends when your child turns 18. Adolescence actually ends at 25 years of age. Until then the frontal lobes of the brain are not fully developed. Can you guess what role the frontal lobes play? Planning, organizing and resisting the urge to take risks.

“Normal teenagers, with their not-quite-mature frontal lobes, are particularly vulnerable to alcohol and drugs that target the frontal lobes,” says Jenni Ogden, Ph.D. “Their ‘normal’ risk-taking behaviors become rapidly much worse, often after very little to drink. A parent’s worst nightmare is the teen who gets drunk and drives home, has a car crash and sustains a head injury that results in permanent brain damage.”

We love our children. We want and expect them to do well. They just cannot develop into responsible law-abiding citizens without us.

“These young people are our future leaders: our future teachers, mayors, doctors, parents, and entertainers,” says Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “As our youth and young adults face challenges, we as a community, need to effectively communicate with them in every way possible about the risks of underage drinking so that they have the necessary tools to make healthy and informed choices.

Together for Resilient Youth (TRY) is working with parents of children ages 6 to 17 and college age, 18 to 20 years old, to increase their awareness of the seriousness and pervasiveness of underage drinking and equip them with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to help prevent their children from drinking.

TRY provides parents with resources and materials that show parents how to “seize the moment” to talk with their kids about alcohol such as while preparing dinner or doing chores. By modeling behaviors, parents can see the many “natural” opportunities for initiating the conversation about alcohol with their children. Sign up for the Newsletter at DurhamTRY.org

Wanda Boone is the cofounder and coordinator of Durham Together for Resilient Youth (TRY), a Drug Free Community Coalition.