The television program Today features a recurring segment about addiction. The segment addresses information and statistics about addiction, includes interviews with experts, and features personal stories. While the information and experts are certainly interesting and informative, it’s the personal stories that really hit home.

One such story featured three generations of women in the same family: a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter. All three women struggled with alcohol abuse in their pasts, but all three were sober for more than a decade. In fact, the grandmother in the group had maintained her sobriety for more than fifty years.

One of the interesting aspects of the story was the way the women addressed alcohol abuse with their children. The mother in the group said that when her daughter was growing up, the mother would say more indirect things such as, “You’re headed down that path,” when she witnessed her daughter’s alcohol use. Her daughter, the granddaughter and youngest woman in the group, said she would be speaking with her preteen son soon about alcohol and drug use.

Commenting on this story, the Today show panel of journalists then wondered what was the right age to discuss alcohol and drug use with children. A number agreed that talking with preteens is a good idea.

The Today show panel seems to be on the right track. Even if we think preteens are still just children, children are smart and aware. Many know about alcohol and have seen its effects personally or have seen television programs, movies, video games, and advertisements featuring alcohol or drugs or drunk or high characters. Often, these depictions of drunk or high characters are portrayed in a comedic manner, so it seems important to counter these depictions with the truth of what the consequences of being drunk or high really entail.

And young children and teens might be getting drunk or high themselves. If we talk with them about alcohol and drug abuse, we can learn more about these young people and their actions and develop ways to help them.

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