Drinking to Cope with Parenthood Has Reached “Meme” Status

We’ve recently noticed – and perhaps you have too – a lot of internet memes, Instagram photos, ads, merchandise, and even events that make light of drinking to deal with the challenges of parenthood. At first, we didn’t think too much of it and maybe even gave some of the jokes a little chuckle. But once we started paying attention, we really started noticing it, and it became more and more troubling. What message are we sending our kids? That they’re so bad they drive us to drink? Or that drinking is the best way to cope with stress? Take a look for yourself:


Despite mountains of research telling us drinking alcohol is not the best way to deal with stress, we continue to see a growing collection of these types of things. It made us wonder – when did the alcohol industry decide parents were the ideal target?

From sponsoring wine and beer events for moms and dads to advertising gifts on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we’re shifting the cultural norms to something that ultimately, is not healthy for our children.

But, the more we see the social media posts, ads, t-shirts, mugs, and on and on and on, the more normal it becomes. Not only do we believe that “everyone else is drinking,” we believe it’s warranted. However, for every pretty photo of a happy hour cocktail shared on Instagram, there’s a real-life consequence to our parent drinking culture: our kids are watching, and we’re normalizing alcohol use for them, too.

We’ve shifted our cultural norms so that our kids see us treating alcohol like it’s any ol’ drink – soda, juice, coffee, tea. But it’s not. At its core, alcohol is a drug that can have severely negative consequences – especially when young people use it.

So, we don’t want to just brush this culture shift off. We want to join others in calling it out for what it is: exploitative marketing capitalizing on the difficulties of parenting.

We’re not saying parents should never relax and unwind with a glass of wine or a cold one here and there. But the fact of the matter is, parents have a huge influence over their children’s future drinking habits.

Case in point, this internet post of a child’s response to a school assignment asking them to write one sentence about a family member and draw a picture:

More often than not, our children will adopt the behaviors we model for them. If we tell our kids not to drink to fit in or deal with difficulties, but they then see us drinking to “cope with the stresses of parenting,” what message are we giving them, and what behavior are they going to copy?

Parenting is hard. It’s one of the toughest jobs in the world, and it can seem flat out overwhelming at times. Building connections and getting support from others is an important and meaningful way to strengthen our villages so we can keep our kids healthy and safe.

At the same time, it’s important for us to pay more attention to the messaging we’re being fed when it comes to parental drinking behaviors – it’s a kind of manipulation that is so pervasive, we may not even recognize it as marketing. However, being aware of it and knowing that our behavior influences the future behavior of our children might encourage more of us to scroll past that “mommy juice” meme on Facebook without giving it a “like.”

What kind of messages about parental drinking have you all seen circulating lately? Are they more pervasive with the rise of social media? What concerns do you have about this type of consumer marketing strategy? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

TST Working with Coalitions Across Texas

 

Summer may be a time for slowing down, but Texans Standing Tall is ramping up our work with coalitions across the state this season.

Whether we’re traveling to the Rio Grande Valley for media training or headed to Tyler for stakeholder meetings, we’re focused on reaching prevention groups and helping them achieve their missions by working together with advocates, activists, and local leaders.

In May, TST’s Research & Program Specialist Kaleigh Becker traveled to Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley to meet with safety experts, lead a focus group, and collaborate with various coalitions on strategies to reduce impaired driving and underage alcohol use. Attendees also received an in-person demo of our online searchable coalitions tool, which helps individuals and organizations connect to leverage resources and enhance prevention efforts. Additionally, Strategy Specialist Anne-Shirley Schreiner and Director of Community Outreach & Education Georgianne Crowell hit the road to train local advocates, law enforcement, and youth on media and community engagement. The trainings helped the coalitions grow their efforts to address underage alcohol use in their communities.

This June, the road trips continue as we visit multiple cities – including Fort Worth, Tyler, and Waxahachie – to meet with transportation safety experts, state agencies, and university advocates on effective strategies for reducing alcohol use and impaired driving among youth. We’ll also spend some time in Hood County, training youth and adults on how to partner to create positive community change.

In July, we’ll head to to Blanco County to train coalition members on strategies for preventing youth substance use, then help them build a roadmap to success for doing just that. Later on this summer, we’ll make our way to East Texas for a controlled party dispersal training, where we’ll train local law enforcement on ways to safely and effectively break up underage drinking parties.

If you live in one of the communities mentioned above and would like to learn more about what we’ll be doing and how you can get involved when we visit your area, be sure to let us know!

Through training, education, and collaboration, we hope to significantly reduce the incidences of underage drinking – and the consequences that go along with it – in our communities. We know we are most effective when we can directly engage with local leaders and advocates who are passionate and mission-driven.

As we meet with and train coalitions throughout the state, we’re encouraged to learn that communities are excited to have additional opportunities for education and collaboration.

We know the best way to build healthier and safer communities is by exploring ways we can work hand-in-hand with groups that are committed to raising awareness, advocating for substance use prevention, and building a Texas in which alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use have no place in the lives of youth.

Are you involved in your local prevention coalition? Are you interested in learning more about working with us directly? If so, please reach out to Georgianne Crowell at gcrowell@texansstandingtall.org or 512- 442-7501. We’d love to work with you!

Coalition members in Pharr getting interviewed for the local news:

Training youth and law enforcement in Pharr:

Talks and Activities Can Help Prevent Summertime Underage Drinking

 

Your kids are out of school for the summer – but from 9 to 5, you’re still at the office.

How are your teenagers spending the dog days of summer? Are you involved in their day-to-day activities? Do you know where they’ll be, who they will be with, and what they’ll be doing? If they are hanging out at home and/or spending their time with friends, do you know their parents, and have you talked to them about underage drinking?

Though these conversations are important year-round, they’re especially critical in the summer time, when kids are also far more likely to have their first drink. After all, on an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 kids will start drinking. By comparison, that number averages 5,000 to 8,000 during the rest of the year.

If your child isn’t taking summer school, working a summer job, or otherwise occupied in the months ahead, they may find themselves with time on their hands – the kind of leisure that can lead to boredom and experimentation.

Your high schoolers, who may be spending their days hanging out at the lake, going to festivals, or attending parties – where kids overwhelming get their access to alcohol– need to know you don’t approve of them drinking alcohol. If they’re spending time at friends’ houses, where older siblings or adults might be willing to supply alcohol, your children are more likely to say no if you’ve clearly communicated that you don’t approve of underage drinking. It’s also important to talk to the parents of the peers your children are hanging out with about your expectations. But even when kids don’t drink, too often they get into cars with friends who have been drinking. So remind your kids that they should never ride with anyone who is driving after drinking (in cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.).

As adults, it is our job to create safe environments for children that are free of alcohol. This can include providing them with alternatives during their summer months so that they fill their days with fun, learning, and growth opportunities. Some free and affordable options might include:

  • Volunteering at a local animal shelter or nursing home
  • Swimming at the neighborhood pool
  • Starting a side business, such as dog walking, lawn mowing, or babysitting
  • Working through next year’s school reading list at the local library
  • Planting an herb or vegetable garden
  • Enrolling in a photography or writing class at your local community college

Finally, don’t leave alcohol available in your home; if you have alcohol in your home, lock it up.  You should also check in with parents to see if they have alcohol accessible in their home before your children hang out there.

There are endless ways to fill a summer day that don’t involve underage drinking. And, studies show that the longer kids wait to take their first drink, the lower the odds are that they’ll develop alcohol abuse or dependence as adults. Preventing young people from drinking underage also means we’re protecting them from many of the negative consequences they’re more likely to experience when they drink – things like alcohol-related car crashes and other injuries (e.g., burns, falling, and drowning), unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, physical and sexual assault, abuse of other drugs, or even death from alcohol poisoning.

We hope you’ll get involved in your kids’ daily activities and keep them safe and alcohol-free this summer. For more information about what you can do to help prevent underage drinking with your kids and in your community, contact us at TST@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501. And, if you have ideas about other safe and healthy activities for youth during the summer months, share them in the comments section down below!

Popularity of E-Cigarettes is a Public Health Matter

 

Snapchat. iPhones. Emojis. Selfies.

Of all the things teens think are cool, e-cigarettes – and the JUUL brand, in particular – should be among the most concerning.

We know e-cigarettes are making their way into the hands of youth, who are curious, attracted to the easy-to-hide design and fun flavors like crème brulee, or influenced by their peers. JUUL is especially popular because they are sleek and resemble a thumb drive, with teens saying they are “discreet enough to vape in class.”

We also know teens and adults find e-cigarettes appealing because they still believe they are less harmful than other tobacco products. But that doesn’t mean they are safe.

Case in point: one significant new study of nearly 70,000 people revealed that daily e-cigarette use can double the risk of a heart attack. When you consider that e-cigarettes are increasingly becoming a gateway to smoking among youth, these studies should be a concern.

But your average teen isn’t concerned about their chances of a heart attack — or other major health concerns like cancer; they’re drawn to e-cigarettes like JUUL, which “has developed a cult-like following among youth and young adults, fueled by a strong presence on social media sites like YouTube.”

Still, the popularity of JUUL and other e-cigarettes should be alarming to the public health community, since we know that exposure to nicotine during adolescence can cause addiction and harm the developing brain, and that children using e-cigarettes are at an a increased risk of using tobacco cigarettes in the future.

Moreover, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students more than tripled from 2013 to 2015. For the first time ever, teens are smoking e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes.

As concerned community members, we can advocate for regulation of e-cigarettes by the FDA, which has had the authority to regulate them since 2016 but has delayed implementation of key provisions. We can also share public health materials to build public awareness about potential harms associated with use of JUUL and other e-cigarettes. Several resources are emerging, including educational toolkit materials for teens developed by the Stanford University Department of Medicine, a Truth Initiative fact sheet, and a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids fact sheet. Finally, we can get involved with local coalitions like the Galveston/Bay Area and the Wichita County TPCCs (Tobacco Prevention and Control Coalitions) that are working to pass comprehensive smoke-free ordinances and Tobacco21 laws that would prevent anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco products.

If you have any questions or want more information about what you can do in your community on this issue or other tobacco-related issues, please contact Steve at SRoss@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501.

Alcohol vs. Athletes

Research indicates that student athletes are a population that is at risk for alcohol use—81 percent of college student-athletes used alcohol in the past year, and 62 percent used alcohol in the past month (NCAA, 2014). When the vast majority of student-athletes are using alcohol on a regular basis, we have a problem.

Some factors that contribute to student-athlete alcohol use include stress from the dual roles that they play on campus and the increased scrutiny they receive, overexposure to social settings that promote alcohol use, and challenges related to having less contact with their central support networks. All students, including athletes, also tend to overestimate the alcohol use of their peers and underestimate their own alcohol use, which contributes to a drinking culture on campus.

In addition to the negative consequences of drinking that can affect all students, such as unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, and binge drinking, college student-athletes have other reasons to avoid using alcohol.

When talking about athletes specifically, there are a number of reasons alcohol use is concerning. In addition to concerns about physical and mental well-being of the students, alcohol hinders an athlete’s performance.

Alcohol Damages the Heart. Intense exercise increases your heart rate. Drinking alcohol even two days before exercising causes additional stress on the heart and can result in unusual heart rhythms (Drink Aware, 2014). 

Alcohol Harms Muscle Growth. Alcohol use cancels out gains from a workout. Chronic alcohol use can damage long-term performance by causing muscle damage, muscle loss, and muscle weakness; even short-term alcohol use can impede muscle growth. This muscle loss and weakness is known as myopathy. Myopathy can affect all muscles – such as those in your arms, legs, and heart – in a way that can harm athletic abilities (University Health Center, 2014).

Exercising With a Hangover Decreases Performance. When exercising, the body must continuously remove lactic acid. After drinking, a person’s liver is working hardest to rid the body of the toxic by-products of alcohol and cannot remove the lactic acid. This causes a feeling of fatigue, which lowers athletic performance (Drink Aware, 2014).

Alcohol Causes Dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes the kidneys produce more urine and can cause the athlete’s body to become dehydrated. Staying hydrated helps blood flow so it can carry oxygen and nutrients to the muscles (Drink Aware, 2014). When dehydrated, an athlete may experience low energy, low endurance, cramps, muscle pulls, muscle strains, and muscle loss. Full recovery from dehydration can take up to a week (UC San Diego Intercollegiate Athletics).                                                                                                                                             

Alcohol Hurts Athletic Performance. Alcohol is linked with a loss of balance, reaction time, memory, and accuracy of fine motor skills (Vella & Cameron-Smith, 2010). Drinking alcohol leads to slower running and cycling times, weakens the heart’s ability to pump, impairs temperature regulation, decreases grip strength and jump height, lowers stamina, and reduces strength and power (Kozir & American College of Sports Medicine).

For college student-athletes, avoiding dangerous alcohol use can benefit their performance in and out of the classroom. Through sensible alcohol policies and educational campaigns that challenge students’ misperceptions, colleges can help prevent alcohol use among student-athletes.

For more information, check out our Athletes vs. Alcohol handout here.

 

New Routines, New Opportunities for Underage Alcohol Use

The start of the school year is an exciting time! Students have the opportunity to try new activities, make new friends, and experience new social situations. However, these positive changes can also create conditions like social and academic pressures that leave young people especially vulnerable to dangerous alcohol use and abuse. Parents taking steps to prevent underage alcohol use and abuse is essential to promoting the safety of their children.

The majority of underage drinking takes place in social settings, such as at home and at parties. Even if parents are at home, underage drinking that occurs at parties can have many negative consequences, including violence and assaults, unplanned sexual activity, combination drug use, property damage and vandalism, and binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Preventing underage social access to alcohol can help reduce these negative consequences.

Parents play a critical role in preventing underage drinking. If parents do not provide a space for underage drinking to occur, young people are significantly less likely to drink. Parents can help change attitudes and expectations that underage drinking is just a fact of life in their community by providing social activities that are alcohol-free and speaking with other parents about the consequences of underage drinking at parties, with or without supervision. Fostering an environment where underage drinking is not viewed as an inevitable rite of passage can help prevent many of the destructive consequences of underage social access to alcohol.

The beginning of the school year is fun and exciting. However, the changes in environment, friends, and school stressors can lead to unhealthy behavior. Parents should have a plan of action to help their kids stay out of trouble when it comes to underage drinking and alcohol abuse. When parents are undeniably clear with their children that are expected to obey the law and not drink underage, their children more often listen to them over their peers. Reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations can keep them safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.

Keurig and Anheuser-Busch InBev Team Up For New Alcohol Product

Keurig and Anheuser-Busch InBev announced in early January that they were teaming up to create an appliance that can dispense beer, spirits, mixers, and cocktails in the home.

The companies are still researching how the product will work, but this premature announcement, without so much as a prototype, is troubling for anyone concerned with preventing youth from using alcohol.

Alcohol remains the most used substance by Texas youth. Texans Standing Tall, along with our partners, have taken to the front lines to end the normalization of alcohol for teenagers and young college students. Products like the one Keurig/Anheuser-Busch have planned and SodaStream’s in-home beer brewer (sold in European markets with plans to spread to others) make it easier for youth to access alcohol by having alcoholic beverages more readily available in the home.

These creations add to a growing list of challenges parents and prevention specialists face while working so hard to keep our communities safe. The alcohol industry’s innovative ways to appeal to youth are why Texans Standing Tall focuses on reversing the normalization of alcohol with evidence-based policies like social host ordinances. Since most youth get their alcohol from social settings, limiting youth access at parties and other social events can both reduce youth alcohol consumption and decrease the negative consequences that occur as a result. This includes things like unplanned sexual activity, sexual assault, drinking and driving, property damage, binge drinking, violence/fights, and combination drug use.

“According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49.”

A press release on Anheuser-Busch’s website says that the North American market will be the company’s primary focus for the product. Of course, this isn’t the first time Anheuser-Bush InBev has targeted the United States with gimmicks. Remember when we reported in mid-2016 about their exploitation of American imagery and sentiment to promote their product when they temporarily renamed their beer? According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49. This is a public health pandemic and deserves serious attention, not more gimmicks and novelty products.

The company did not specify a product name or a timeline for when it will hit a shelf near you, but Texans Standing Tall will be keeping an eye on its availability to make sure our fellow community lifeguards are prepared for addressing new threats to our youth and social access challenges. If you are concerned about underage alcohol use in your community, contact Brian Lemons or Libby Banks for more information about how a social host ordinance works and controlled party dispersal trainings.

Prevent Risky Behavior This Holiday Season

As finals put a bow on the fall semester, high school and college students are beginning to make plans to get together for parties or reunions as friends gather back home. With time on their hands and a festive season, there are many opportunities for the dangers of alcohol use to jingle all the way into their young lives. Along with the holiday gatherings comes the frightful increase of alcohol-fueled risky behavior like unwanted or unplanned sex, fights including alcohol-related car crashes. With the semester ending, now is an extremely important time to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving with the youth in your life.

Many parents believe allowing their children and their children’s friends to consume alcohol under their roof encourages healthier attitudes toward alcohol, but in truth, alcohol consumption by underage youth increases the risks of unwanted or unplanned sex, fights, homicides, and suicides. Parents also believe that taking the keys away from youth will prevent them from drinking and driving, but they may not be aware that youth are more likely to binge drink outside of the home when parents allow alcohol consumption in the home. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drivers ages 16-20 are 17 times more likely to die in a car crash when they have a high blood alcohol concentration compared to when they have not been drinking. The CDC also reports that the chances for alcohol abuse increases when people begin drinking in their teenage years and The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reports that 90 percent of addictions begin in the teenage years.

Modeling good decision-making with alcohol is an effective approach to preventing your teens from making risky choices. Parents should also consider a “rules of the road” contract with their youth. Studies show that the children of parents who establish and enforce rules around alcohol make positive decisions when it comes to drinking and driving.

A good way to lead any conversation with youth is to remind them of the Zero Tolerance Laws in Texas, which makes it illegal to consume alcohol under the age of 21. It does not matter if the substance is provided by a friend’s parent, it is still illegal in the state of Texas.

Texans Standing Tall is a resource for coalitions and communities across the state working to address youth social access to alcohol. A long-term, community-based solution that TST educates about and promotes is a strategy called a civil social host ordinance. A civil social host ordinance is a city ordinance that holds people accountable for providing the location for underage drinking parties. Our partners at Circles of San Antonio are working toward a healthier and safer community through a social host ordinance. The city of El Paso recently passed such an ordinance. We are hoping to see many more around our state.

If you are interested in learning more about how a civil social host ordinance works:

  • visit our website
  • contact TST’s Strategy Specialist Brian Lemons
  • contact Community Mobilization Coordinator Libby Banks.