A new study done by The Century Council, a leading non-profit dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking found that, contrary to what you might think (and to what teens would admit to mom and pop), parents are are the leading influence on their children’s decision not to drink alcohol. Yep, you read that right. In fact, parental influence has increased substantially over the past ten years.
Dear Mr. Dad: Our son is only 10, but he is already extremely overweight. He loves food and we don’t want to deny him his favorite dishes, but we’re starting to get worried about his health. What should we do?
A: You’re absolutely right to be concerned. Obesity in this country is a huge problem. And it’s getting bigger by the day. Back in the 1960s, fewer than one in ten kids 6-19 were considered overweight. Today it’s more than one in three. Put a little differently, when you were growing up, the average child drank three glasses of milk for every one of soda. Today, kids are drinking twice as much soda as milk.
Dear Mr. Dad: Our 15-year-old son wants to quit school and get a job. He has struggled academically but we always assumed he’d graduate and go on to college. We’re trying hard to dissuade him from quitting, but he says he can always get a GED later. What can we do?
A: Having been in exactly the same spot as your son—and having a teenager of my own who’s talked about leaving school—I don’t think that most high-schoolers are mature enough to make decisions on their own about things that could affect them for the rest of their lives.
Dear Mr. Dad: We’ve suspected for some time that our 15-year-old daughter has been drinking with her friends. Last night she came home, after curfew, with alcohol on her breath. When we confronted her, she said it’s “no big deal” and “everyone” in her group of friends is doing it. What should we do?
A: Your daughter is right about one thing: a lot of her friends probably are drinking. But she’s very, very wrong about it not being a “big deal.” According to the American Medical Association, the average age of a child’s first drink is 12. And nearly 20 percent of 12-20 year-olds are considered binge drinkers.
Dear Mr. Dad: I’m really worried about my daughter. She’s a sophomore in high school and until the beginning of this year she was a happy, cheerful girl. Recently, though, she’s been losing a lot of weight and is always wearing big long sleeve shirts. She won’t show her mother or me her arms or her body. She’s also very secretive and spends a lot of time alone in her room. My wife and I are terrified that our daughter is cutting herself, and we’re both really scared for her safety. What can we do?
A: Okay, the very first thing you need to do is get a health professional involved. Unexplained weight loss, sudden changes in behavior, unexplained major mood changes and weight loss are all major red flags. Keep a detailed record of what you see your daughter eating over the course of a week, as well as any behavior that concerns you. Then, take your notes to your family doctor and get his or her advice.
Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve suspected for a while that my twelve-year-old son is being bullied at school. I finally managed to get it out of him at bedtime one night. He doesn’t seem to be in real danger—it’s mostly petty harassment—but I remember being terrorized by exactly that at his age, and I just don’t want him going through it. What can I do?
A: Few things are as difficult and painful for a parent as seeing your child made miserable by a bully. It’s especially hard for dads, who feel helpless because they can’t adequately protect their child from harm. Being bullied can affect almost everything in your child’s life, from his personal confidence to his attitude toward school. And “petty harassment” over a long period can be every bit as scarring as physical abuse.