Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Flashpoints: Teens, Mental Health and Drinking


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For the past two months, one branch of my extended family tree has been dealing with the fallout of many years of addiction and mental health problems that seem to have started in adolescence. It culminated in a crisis at the beginning of January. 

The people involved are not close to my children, but they are close to my heart. I had a choice to make when all of this blew up a few weeks ago. I could let my kids think that I was being moody and emotional for no good reason. I could make up a story resembling the truth to explain what was going on with me and why I was spending so much time on the phone and in tears. Or I could just tell them the truth.

I decided there was really only one course of action, because keeping deep, dark secrets from them feels anathema to me. Especially when there is a lot to learn from the situation. 

There are so many reasons why kids, teenagers and alcohol don't mix. We could talk about how they metabolize alcohol differently than adults. We could talk about how cognitively kids and teens are already hardwired to be impulsive and how intoxication leads to dangerous choices at worst and embarrassing ones at best. But it goes way beyond all of that when the kid who is drinking has depression or anxiety, or perhaps something more serious that hasn't yet fully materialized (bipolar, schizophrenia, a predisposition to addiction, etc.). That decision can be life altering. 

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