Sobering thoughts on when to introduce alcohol
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May 21, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Sobering thoughts on when to introduce alcohol

St. Marys Journal Argus

There is good reason why the name of Monday’s statutory holiday has evolved from Victoria Day to the “Two-Four long weekend.”

Maybe you didn’t help consume an entire two-four (or two, or three or more) of bottled beer. But statistics show you probably did enjoy at least a drink or two to celebrate summer’s unofficial beginning and a three-day weekend.

We are a nation of drinkers. In advance of the long weekend, the National Post took a look at our country’s drinking habits. Roughly four of five Canadians drink alcohol, with consumption rates slightly below those from the late 1980s, when we were drinking at our peak, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canadian’s largest teaching hospital in these fields.

This stat works out to about nine drinks a week. That level of average consumption is technically within the limits CAMH sets as “low risk” for ill effects like cancer and liver disease: 10 drinks a week for women, or no more than two most days; and 15 for men, with no more than three drinks most days.

It seems responsible. But it’s a challenging time of year for the phrase “responsible drinking.” Patios, weddings, proms, or beautiful summer weekends tempt us at every turn.

And most of us do it safely enough. But many of us have a story, or a few, of a time we didn’t know better and ended up paying the head-pounding, painful price. It’s how you learn not to cross that line again, right?

It’s interesting that the aforementioned consumption stats are for people age 15 and up — and we know that legal drinking age is 18 or 19 in most provinces. Media may jump all over the exotic, new recreational drug du jour, but let’s not forget how easy it is for teens to access booze, but also for them to overindulge, due to inexperience. Living in a small town, we don’t need statistics to show us just what a popular pastime “partying” is for our youth.

As much as we’d like to think we should keep kids away from alcohol until they hit 19 — or maybe 29 — it’s not realistic. Nor, necessarily, is the “cool parent” who lets their kids booze it up, provided they’re honest about it and at home. I think most parents would hope their children were raised well enough to resist the temptation of drinking until blackout point because it’s an unsafe, unhealthy thing to do.

But how to raise that kind of kid?

The Globe and Mail had a surprising article on how to introduce alcohol to young children. Lately, many parents who imbibe use what’s considered to be the “European” model: normalizing alcohol’s place in one’s life by including it at meals and allowing young children to try it occasionally. We use this method with Charlotte, thinking that our responsible consumption — coupled with alcohol’s admittedly acquired taste — would be a good way for her to begin learning about responsible drinking, even at such a young age.

Extensive research shows, however, that children who were allowed to drink scant amounts of alcohol at home by their parents (meaning, a shot glass of beer or a sip of wine) were four times as likely to become binge drinkers come high school, even after adjusting for factors like family history. Also, any alcohol consumption by young children can affect their still-developing brains.

The article says this may be the result of misconceptions of that European model: children younger than 10 weren’t traditionally given alcohol, and they aren’t allowed to sip from their parents’ drinks, and signs of drunkenness are verboten. But — those exposed European youth are catching up to their North American counterparts in binge drinking, as mass media images of rowdy, bottle-filled lifestyles prove more alluring than a tipple around the family table.

Being totalitarian or totally lax about alcohol use won’t help your kids make wise choices, the experts say. What seems to work best is when adults model good alcohol use and are clear about their expectations of alcohol use. Easier said than done, but just like a perfectly mixed drink, everything in moderation breeds moderation.

What else says “long weekend”? Barbecuing, of course. Here’s a sweet and savoury side to spice up your summer meals.

Grilled Sweet and Spicy Pineapple

(from Stephen & Chris)

1 large pineapple, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup hot sauce

1 tsp. dried chili flakes

Toss all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Preheat barbecue to medium-high heat (about 375°F). Once the grill is ready, transfer your coated pineapple to a grill basket and place on the barbecue. Cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until light grill marks develop on all sides. Serve immediately as a side dish or on burgers and salads.

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