This is the time of year that I hate reading the newspaper.
Young lives seem to be snapped up at a higher rate than other times of the year. How many of us cringe when we hear a siren, check our cell phones, text our kids? I do, especially if the sirens are loud and the wind is blowing just right. A lot of us suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome from what happened in our community.
It’s unfortunately our ‘new normal’.
Our kids generally are not party kids. We have lucked out with the older three, but there was that once…. that horrible and terrifying life changing once… I won’t go into the long version here. But there is nothing like sitting next to your pale, cold unresponsive child in an emergency room not knowing if you’re going to bring him home or not.
What we learned in the aftermath of that evening is too often adults look the other way; we don’t want to be the only parent to say no. We can be motivated by fear; fear of a lawsuit, of being ostracized or our kids being left out. Regardless of where we are coming from, safety has to be a priority.
Even if you don’t read the rest of this, don’t skip these tips:
-If your child has a friend who is passed out, and doesn’t respond to calling their name, poking, a pinch or a slap; they are suffering from alcohol poisoning and need a hospital immediately for IV therapy. Do NOT let them ‘sleep it off’. They could die, or end up in a coma.
-9-11 Good Samaritan Law: By NJ state law, a minor can call the police or an ambulance to ‘rescue’ up to 2 friends in serious condition and they have immunity that protects them from being arrested. The kids need to know that fear of getting in trouble should NEVER prevent them from getting help.
-CODE words; Have ‘what if’ conversations with your kids. Let them ask you ‘what would you do if I came home and….’ Give them your calmest and most sincere answer. Please don’t prompt it with ‘I’d kill you..’ fear is not a good motivator. Come up with a word they can text you if they are in a situation they need ‘out’ of. Our kids have texted us and asked us to text them back ‘telling them come home’.
-You are their safe haven: Let them know they can prompt what they are going to tell you with ‘I’m scared you’ll be mad…’, let that be your cue to take a deep breath and not react in anger.
-Be available! We all like a nice night out, but when we are parents our kid’s well-being and safety has to come first. Let your kids know where you’ll be and that you’ll have your cell phone. There is never a reason that they cannot call you or text you. Be willing to give up the night out or leave your event for any reason if your child needs you.
I’ve heard over and over, ‘We drank….’; ok, some of us drank in high school. Teenagers haven’t changed, they like to experiment and push the envelope. BUT what has changed are a couple of key things. We know that over 6000 teen deaths in our country a year are alcohol related. The alcohol young people are consuming has changed, and we know that their method of drinking is binge drinking.
What our kids have available to them flavored vodkas. They are very dangerous; they do not taste like grandpas drink any more. In our son’s experience, ‘it tastes like Snapple,’ making large quantities at fast rates easily consumed. The alcohol is absorbed into the body very quickly which leads to alcohol poisoning, pumping someone’s stomach does not help.
Alcohol immediately affects the frontal lobe of the brain. That is the section of the brain the dictates decision making and impulse control which usually causes more drinking as well as other destructive choices.
(See more on the teen brainhttp://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124119468&sc=emaf).
Once the alcohol travels to the brain stem they are in danger.
The brain stem is in charge of basic functions like breathing, swallowing and the gag reflex; which is why so many choke on vomit and die during an alcohol overdose. The death wasn’t because the person was propped up in the wrong position, it’s that their gag reflex had been ‘put to sleep’ and when they vomited there is no response to clear the air passage.
With alcohol poisoning, bodily functions slowly shut down which can result in coma or death. This is what we watched happen. Our son was hardly breathing on the way to the hospital. His body temperature was 95. He was unresponsive through a CT scan and several other ‘tests’. It took 4 hours of double IV therapy (both arms) full open lines, 4 full bags and 4 hours before we had a miracle.
The emergency room saved our sons life. His friend who was half in the bag and was brave enough to stop himself to remember what was important and call our daughter, saved his life. Our daughter who dropped a group of friends in high school to avoid the drinking, who spent many weekend nights home bored with us saw the fruit of her sacrifice. She was sober and available to get that phone call, she went immediately to them and she was not afraid to call us, she saved his life. It was because of those good choices during the chaos that we were able to get our son to the hospital in time.
The bottom line, if his friend didn’t do what was right in the middle of a stupid choice, our son would not be here. The hospital was very clear with us; we almost lost him that night. There was a divide; a stupid decision, one dumb night, kids acting out of fear, adults acting out of fear…and then those who stepped up, those who followed us to the hospital and the expertise of the ER. Arm your kids with the right information; prepare them to make the harder ‘right’ choice. There is not a day he comes home from school that I don’t look at him and know it’s a gift he has walked through that door.
Please don’t think you are immune to such a horrible experience by thinking ‘We have good kids’; well, we have good kids and VERY well informed kids. It happens, be aware.
Let’s consider the law. The drinking age is 21 for a reason. Allowing kids to drink alcohol is illegal. Buying them alcohol is illegal. Serving your kids a glass or a beer at dinner is your prerogative, but it is illegal and morally wrong to allow other people’s children to drink in your home. Social host laws in the state of NJ may only be a $250 fine, but consider our hospital bill for 14 hours was over $16,000 and that extended care for coma patients or funeral costs are much higher, so are law suits.
Considering hotel rooms and vacation homes after prom or graduation?
Reflect for a moment; minors unsupervised, overnight, in a strange place with alcohol and many other opportunities and decisions that shouldn’t be made under the influence. (Again, see our teen brain article, and then consider chemically altering it).
Taking their keys?
Clearly driving isn’t the only danger they face while drinking. Probably you would not be monitoring their intake by measurement and each body processes alcohol differently. 8oz can be enough to put a 110 pound girl into a coma or cause her death check out http://shelbysrulesfoundation.com/.
Be smart and careful. Give them lots of other options for fun. Our kids can have a great night without the booze, a night to remember, not a night they would rather forget.