It doesn’t take a genius to decipher the numbers and statistics above: alcohol brings pain, misery, and death. Abraham Lincoln was right when he said “Alcohol has many defenders, and no defense.” How can we teach our children to stay away from this scourge that “bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper” (Proverbs 23:32)? Let’s take specific steps:
Recognize your child is at risk. Whether we like it or not, kids today are powerfully influenced to consume alcohol. Friends, media, and advertising work together to shout “Drink or you’re missing out on life!” To believe that your child no matter his or her age is not affected by this is sheer naivete. Weekly Reader magazine reported that 34% of fourth graders felt pressure to try wine. The average age to start drinking is twelve. The US Surgeon General reports more than half of the nation’s junior and senior high school students drink alcoholic beverages, and many “binge” drink to relieve stress and boredom. Admit it: your child could be drinking. Somebody’s child is making up those stats, and that kid could be yours. Until we admit that our child is in danger we won’t take the urgent action necessary to protect that child. Yet too many parents fail here: studies show that fewer than one-in-three parents of tenth grade students are giving their children a clear “no-use” message about alcohol. Could that be because they don’t think their child is at risk?
Practice purity yourself. The argument about whether social drinking is permissible continues to rage. Sadly, some refuse to be convinced (because they want to drink, we expect). We direct your attention to Ephesians 5:17; 1 Peter 4:3 and, perhaps of the greatest impact, James 1:27. The truth about alcohol is that it is sinful and wrong to consume alcohol in any quantity for recreational purposes. It damages a Christian’s influence, destroys our ability to control ourselves, and leads directly to more and more sin. It is wrong — and as a parent you need to believe that and live accordingly. Why? Because your attitude toward alcohol directly affects your children’s attitudes. One study found that when fathers totally abstain from alcohol 70% of their children abstain as well. But if dad occasionally uses alcohol then abstention rates plummet to 32% in his children. Daily users of alcohol have children with an even lower abstinence rate (25%). Go ahead and make every sophisticated argument for social drinking you want — and watch your children drink themselves into misery and sin.
Watch for progression. Kids begin with alcohol by experimenting with it. You can detect this stage by watching for heavy usage of mouthwash, or new friends. Changes in mood and temperament develop once a child is seeking out alcohol. Irrational behavior like stealing, dropping out of school, or constant rebellion indicate addiction. Obviously, the time to stop this sinful problem is in the earliest stages. It is never wrong for a parent to say “Have you been drinking?” or “Do your friends drink?” or even “Was alcohol at the party?” Even if the answers are quick negatives you have at least posted a notice to your teen that you are on guard and watching.
Teach coping skills. Lots of teens start drinking because they don’t know how to cope with the intense pressures of teen-age life. It is hard to be a teen today, even though mom and dad are often oblivious to the hardships our kids face. Reach out to them with understanding, instead of easily letting problems off by saying “It’ll pass” or “That’s not that big a deal.” You know that because you have more experience and age — your teen does not. To him or her this is the end of the world. If you don’t help your child learn to handle life, they will learn from someone else. Bluntly put, it’s you or a six pack. How do you cope with the stress of life? What do you do when you can’t take any more? Teach those things to your child.
If you discover your child is drinking, treat the sickness, not just the symptom. Jesus tells us that evil flows from our hearts (Matthew 12:35). When our child becomes involved with drugs or alcohol we need to do more than just fixate on that one particular sinful behavior. We need to ask “Why?” Why did this kid choose to drink? It’s easy to blame “bad friends” but what is going on in his/her life that causes him/her to have friends like this? A child that is drinking alcohol is a child that has some sort of heart problem — sin and corruption have entered in. How did that get in there? Why is the child allowing them to remain? Some kids drink because they are angry at their parents, or need attention, or want to escape reality. We will never stop the symptom until we have treated the sickness (sin) that caused drinking to occur. Drinking is a representational sin. It represents that something has gone terribly wrong inside your child. Find it and treat the real problem, not just the external behaviors of that problem.
These are just a few ideas to help you begin the fight against alcohol. Beer and whiskey companies are pouring billions of dollars into advertising to convince your child that drinking is safe, fun, and the only way to have a really good time. What are you doing to counteract these lies with the truth? Let’s get busy!