Dear Annie: My daughter has grown up in the blink of an eye. It seems as if I was just introducing the ABCs, and now she’s reading Shakespeare in school. We talk every day about her classes and activities, and I also make sure we discuss underage drinking.
When I was young, conversations about alcohol consumption were along the lines of “Don’t do it” and not about the impact of alcohol on my body, particularly my adolescent brain. Now that I’m a parent, I try to make sure I have the information I need to teach my daughter to make healthy decisions.
As my daughter has grown up, I’ve tried to discuss alcohol consumption in ways she’d best understand. For example, she and her friends are undergoing many emotional and physical changes, and they’re fascinated by how their bodies and minds operate. I started using information from programs such as Ask, Listen, Learn to connect her natural interests about her brain and body with the impact underage drinking can have on them.
This resource has helped me better understand the nuanced functions of the brain and how they are impaired by alcohol (especially the still-developing brain), and it has given me more confidence in conversations with my daughter about why drinking is an adults-only activity. The interactive videos and games have given my child a new fun outlet for learning, too.
I hope you’ll help in informing my generation of parents about the tools available to help them talk to their children about saying no to underage drinking. – Shannan Y.
Dear Shannan Y.: You are so right that it’s important for parents to talk to their teen children about alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking) also offers resources for parents wrestling with this issue – even a free app for practicing the conversation (called “Talk. They Hear You”). Teen drinking has, thank goodness, decreased over the past two decades. Let’s hope it will continue to decline with active parent involvement.
Dear Annie: As a psychotherapist, I wonder whether the nose-picking daughter of “Dad Who Cares” has a compulsion. Not wanting to stop unhealthy behaviors is often because of compulsivity. It’s not that she won’t stop; it’s that she can’t (without help, that is). An excellent book and wonderful read on the subject, by science writer Sharon Begley, is “Can’t Just Stop: An Investigation of Compulsions.” – Karen, LCSW
Dear Karen, LCSW: That’s a useful angle to consider, and I appreciate the book recommendation.
Dear Annie: It is worth mentioning that the nose-picking habit may be because the daughter has an infection inside her nose. Impetigo, which often occurs on the skin, may instead emerge inside the nose, causing scab formation. It is caused by strep or staph bacteria. A visit to her primary care physician for a culture of the inside of her nose is in order. A treatment with penicillin would most likely clear up the infection and maybe stop the urge to pick. – Certified Medical Microbiologist
Dear Certified Microbiologist: Another helpful take on this unsettling issue. Thanks for writing.
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