Jessica Lahey is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed and The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence.
402: Preventing Alcohol Issues in Your Kid
None of us want our kids to grow up addicted to alcohol or drugs, but how do we prevent it? It turns out there are research-based ways to inoculate our children to the harmful effects of addiction (turns out, it starts with being open, honest and giving good information). Jessica Lahey comes on the Mindful Mama Podcast to help us raise healthy kids in a culture of dependence.
Preventing Alcohol Issues in Your Kids- Jessica Lahey 
*This is an auto-generated transcript*
[00:00:00] Jessica Lahey: I wasn't particularly interested in it, and it wasn't until I had kids that my drinking started to ramp up, and it turns out that's not that uncommon of a story. I really didn't develop problematic drinking until into my thirties.
[00:00:19] Hunter: Your list are listening to the Mindful Mama Podcast, episode number 402. Today we're talking about preventing alcohol issues in your kid with Jessica Lehi.
Welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Mama, we know that you cannot give what you do not have. And when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.
I've been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years. I'm the creator of Mindful Parenting, and I'm the author of the best selling book, raising Good Humans, A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and raising Kind Confident Kids.
Hello my friend. So glad you are here. Hey, if you haven't yet done so please hit that subscribe button so you don't miss anything. And if you get value from this podcast please do me a favor, go over to Apple Podcast. Leave us a rating and review. Just helps us grow and we have grown all organically from you and just takes 30 seconds and it makes such a big difference to me and my team.
I hugely appreciate it. In just a moment, I'm going to be sitting down with someone. I am super honored to be able to call a friend. Jessica Leahy is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, the Gift of Failure, how the Best Parents Learn To Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed. And we, she was on the podcast before to talk about that book and you can listen to episode number 163.
And she's here today to talk about her new book, the Addiction Inoculation, raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence. And we're gonna talk about this very important issue. None of us want our kids to grow up addicted to alcohol or drugs, but how do we prevent it? And so it turns out there are research-based ways to inoculate our children to the harmful effects of addiction.
I think this is such an important episode. Jess helps us to raise healthy kids in a culture of dependence. So important. So let's just dive in. Join me at the table as I talk to Jessica Leahy.
Jess, thanks so much for coming back on the Mindful Mama podcast. I'm so glad to have you here.
[00:02:47] Jessica Lahey: I'm so excited to be here. I really love chatting with you.
[00:02:51] Hunter: Okay, so I think we should dive right into that, like that question that we were talking about just beforehand. Okay. We're gonna talk about like how to inoculate your kids against addiction to like drugs and alcohol, right?
This is an incredibly important thing and one of my ideas. Which was not apparently my own idea. It was that like oh, my kids to be like, Europeans, the Italian, like my sister-in-law, she has wine with lunch. She grew up in Rome. It's all very cool. N there's not like a big issue there.
Here in the United States, it seems like we have more issues with it. So maybe I should just give my kids sips of wine throughout when they're like, 12 plus and just make it be like no big deal. And that wine is something you do with the family, so therefore it's really boring. And make it normalize.
And I was totally in that camp. And you have recently debunked to that. You were in that camp too? I was,
[00:03:52] Jessica Lahey: yes. In fact, I've been really clear on the fact that I have raised my two kids very differently. My older kid, he's 24 now. He was not only allowed to have sips as a kid when he was first, I can't believe I did this when he was first born, a friend of ours sent us a really nice bottle of wine, really just an exceptional bottle of wine.
I write about it in the addiction inoculation and I was like the first taste he has of wine should be of this really nice one. So I put some on my finger and I put it on his tongue and. These are it's not like that right there. Oh my gosh. That was the things, if your kid becomes, has alcohol use disorder, that's gonna be the thing.
But we do know a couple of things about. Predictors about things that have a very weighty correlation. Things that are statistically significant when it comes to people who develop alcohol use disorder during their lifetime. And let me be really clear just about my language. So I'm using the term alcohol use disorder instead of alcoholic or addict or.
Addicted, that kind of thing. We're, we try really hard to use person first language and to eliminate some of the shame and blah, blah, blah. I call myself an alcoholic, but whenever I talk about anyone else, I use substance use disorder, alcohol use disorder, a human with alcohol use disorder.
Anyway. To get to the point. So I released these daily videos on TikTok and Instagram, moving through the addiction inoculation, and I released one talking about the fact that the earlier kid tries alcohol, drugs and alcohol, the higher their lifelong risk of substance use disorder, which is. True.
It just bears out in the statistics. However, this is not a causation kind of thing because the only way we could get a causation for this would be to take two groups of very young children, give some alcohol, give some placebo, blah, blah, blah, double blinded, all that sort of stuff.
And as I say in the video, we're also not. I'm not gonna do that study. I'm also not gonna do, be a part of the study where they're checking to make sure that parachutes are effective against dying. When you jump outta planes, like if we wanna have a causation, relationship there, we need the placebo.
And I'm not gonna be in the placebo group when it comes to parachutes anyway. So the younger kid is, when they first try drugs or alcohol, let's stick with alcohol since that's what we're talking about. The higher their lifelong risk. If they try it in fourth, in eighth grade, then their lifelong risk is somewhere around 41%.
If they try it in high school, the older they get, the lower it gets, it goes down to 17% and it goes down to 11% at 18. And then that's where the studies really stopped because after that year, Considered to be a young adult. So people got so angry at that and started, and those two videos went bananas.
And so I'm making a series of videos about, here's the real details on that. And it just seems that if you look at the research if kids try alcohol at let's say 11 to 12, they are much more likely to have a substance use disorder when they get older. It's just. It's highly correlated. There are mediators, there are predictors we can talk about.
They're confounders. And they're all really interesting. You're more likely to have a high risk of a too early initiate. If you're male, you're more likely to early initiate. If you're white, you're more likely to early initiate. If your parents drink. You're more likely to early initiate if your parents have a really, if your, the culture in your house is pro drinking.
That kind of thing. But no matter how you slice it, if you start young, you are more likely to have a disordered relationship with substances. Over your lifetime. And that just makes a lot of people really upset. And then you talk about the European thing, and I wanna cover that really quickly, which is that as a re, so the World Health Organization just came out with their most recent report on sort of the health of the European region, there's the European region, which includes like Russia and blah, blah, blah.
And then there's the European Union. Which of course now doesn't include the uk and the U the European Union as a whole has the highest, the European region as a whole has the highest rates of drinking in the entire world, and they also have the highest rate of deaths attributable to alcohol in the entire world.
And you can pick and choose countries. When you look at the ones with the lowest rate, it's seven out of 10 of them are predominantly Muslim, where, they don't drink. And if you look at the highest ones, a lot of your favorite Western European countries are included in those highest rates.
And without fine sli, fine dicing and slicing the data too much. That European myth of if I give my kids. Alcohol, when they're younger, it'll be no big deal. And the, I can somehow teach them how to moderate it. It's just a myth. It's just a myth. Especially if you look at, what, countries in Europe tend to have the highest rates of problematic, excessive the language is really important when you talk about this stuff.
But essentially what we're talking about is the most problematic kind of drinking, which is binge drinking. And those countries are like Portugal and Spain and countries like that have some of the highest rates. The top are in the top 10 for disordered drinking heavy episodic use is what they call binge drinking in the
[00:09:34] Hunter: studies.
Here. It's really helpful for me cuz it's burst my own personal bubble about that. And that's good. And I will not like push try some wine.
[00:09:45] Jessica Lahey: No. So what's really interesting also is what I said at the beginning is, so I have two kids that are being raised very differently now. My younger kid, Knows what I know about the statistics because we talk about them all the time cuz we're doing a lot of prevention work in my house cuz I'm an alcoholic and my kids are at increased risk of substance use disorder from the get-go.
And my youngest knows that the reason she's not allowed to have alcohol. Is that it? If she were to have it now, even at 19, it's still her brain is not done developing yet. And things that she can take, drink, whatever in her adult brain once she's an adult. I. Are, could be lower risk, but the stuff that you do during adolescence, you're at higher risk.
Alcohol and drugs really mess with the development of the brain. So there's that side of it, and I wanna keep her risk down as low as possible. And if I can keep her going until 21 if I can delay delay until 21, then I'm doing everything I can to lower her risk. And she knows that.
[00:10:48] Hunter: is good cuz this is statistics shooting down like my own personal experience, which is very helpful for me because like for me yeah, probably I had my first taste of alcohol when I was like four. I think I remember drinking all the DRS of a bottles at my parents' party. Like just going around, be like, what's this?
But I drank. Early, like the summer before ninth grade year was the summer that I probably got the most drunk ever in my life. And I did a lot, I did a lot of things like that when I was young. And then my own personal experience, I got to college and I'd been there and done that.
Like I had tried hallucinogenic drugs and all kinds of other things. By the time I got to college, I was like, okay, I don't need to do this partying thing. I've done that and I wanna take this college experience seriously. But that's one personal story. It's not. Everybody's experience with drugs and alcohol,
[00:11:40] Jessica Lahey: and I have to remember that.
And yours, your story in my stu story are fairly similar actually. So I, my first instance of drinking was, I had tastes really young, but my first like drink to get drunk was in middle school person PS that I drank with. She's dead now of liver failure. She died of alcohol use disorder.
And then, I was same thing. I was over it. I didn't drink during high school or college. Really, it just wasn't my thing. I wasn't particularly interested in it. It wasn't until I had kids that my drinking started to ramp up, and it turns out that's not that uncommon of a story.
I really didn't. I didn't develop problematic drinking until into my thirties. And I thought I was a, I thought I was some kind of weird outlier, but I'm not. You also mentioned the summer before ninth grade, that's the big summer for those transitions, especially the one between middle school and high school.
Those are big moments when kids tend to initiate this. So that's, you're, you're squarely in the sort of what I would predict around when kids are gonna try stuff.
[00:12:48] Hunter: And like you, the one of the person I drank with a lot at that, in that time in my life. My boyfriend at the time has died of a drink
[00:12:56] Jessica Lahey: overdose.
Interesting. Yeah. I actually didn't know what happened to the person that I drank with in middle school. And I looked her up on Facebook and I didn't find her, but I found her sister and that's when I heard that she had died of liver failure in her thirties.
[00:13:17] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.
Okay, so now the listener is Holy Jesus. Y'all help me. I do not want my children growing up like these women. Goodness gracious. So let's like get down to, what do we understand about addiction and how, what, how has our understanding of addiction evolved
[00:13:45] Jessica Lahey: over the years? So first of all, we have to be really clear on the fact that when I talk about drug and alcohol use, I'm talking about adolescence.
And adolescence is a time when brains are highly plastic, highly susceptible to environmental factors, and. Drinking in adolescence is just a lot more dangerous and a lot more damaging to the human brain than it is when you drink when, or use when you're an adult. We know that kids who are, for example, chronic users of marijuana, no pun intended have smaller hippocampus, have thinning in their prefrontal cortex, that kind of thing Or in their frontal lobe.
There's damage that can be done during adolescence that is less likely once the brain is done developing and not in that state of incredible plasticity. So there's that. So I'm always interested in just getting kids out of adolescence before, there. Ingesting things that can mess with their brain development.
Because I'm a former teacher. I'm, what I care about is learning. And what I care about is protecting kids' brains until they're old enough to protect them for themselves anyway. That comes to lots of things like head injuries and sports and things like that. Anyway, So what we know is that the best prevention we have is information that the more kids know about how their brain works and how their brain develops, and why drugs and alcohol are more harm harmful during adolescence than in any other time.
Why? Why specifically they are. Drawn to drugs and alcohol and why that is in terms of, they're really craving novelty. Teenagers in general have lower baseline levels of dopamine, although they have slightly higher uptake rates. So that's, it's. It could possibly be a wash, but when they say that life feels boring as a teenager, that could be attributable to their lower baseline levels of dopamine.
But the good news is that the way we deal with all of these things, like a craving for novelty, a craving for dopamine is that in this all dovetails back nicely with my first book. The gift of failure is that some of the best places to get dopamine are through mastering skills and feeling competent and feeling self-efficacy.
You can get births of dopamine from that. If we want to manage the fact that kids are highly drawn to novelty, which often confers some risk, pushing towards kids, towards things that confer positive novelty, like trying something new, trying out for play, taking some risk emotionally or academically or whatever.
All of these things can help feed that, that incredible thirst for novelty and dopamine that that kids and adolescents have. So the mess, the big message is delay as long as possible. And in the meantime, use. The strengths of adolescents to help them.
Feel good about themselves and build skills and become more competent individuals so that they can go out and be competent adults.
[00:16:56] Hunter: So I like when, as you described this, like this, I can see that the situation that I was in as a teenager where I stopped doing pony club, I didn't do any, I didn't have any outside clubs.
I, I stopped that when I was 14. I just started hanging around friends. I was bored. I was with a group this is like a recipe for getting involved in drugs and Cause you're wanting that. Dopamine and novelty. And so one of the things I'd always thought after going through that and realizing that wasn't so great was that if I ever have kids, they're gonna have, they need to do something when they're in high school.
Like clearly the kids who are in band and in sports, they had at least like this thing was taking up their time to some degree and was. Was structuring their lives in a way that my life wasn't structured. That I think is, seems really important for adolescents. This is a piece of this.
[00:17:49] Jessica Lahey: Yes and no. So there's some fine slicing and dicing to be done here So yes, overall sports have a somewhat protective factor or protective against substance use for a couple different reasons, including, needing to stay healthy, having to get up for early practices, all that kind of stuff.
On the other hand, the top four sports that are actually increased risk for substance use disorder are really the big high contact sports wrestling, lacrosse hockey and football. And how much of that. Has to do with the potential for heads to get knocked around and for there to be potentially some, a little bit of, those concussions are not great for our brains.
Unclear. But yes, definitely having things that you are intrinsically motivated to do that feed your soul and your mind and your body that are. Keeping you from getting bored. Absolutely. And, but as the author of The Gift of Failure, I'm also going to say, is overly scheduling Kids great?
No, it's not. And then I also have to walk that line of this, which is really tough for me because we know that kids who are less monitored watched, controlled those kids will have, are more likely to initiate drug use younger. But on the other hand, we also know that being highly controlling leads to kids who lie to their parents more often, and they need to be able to build their autonomy and go out there and become competent adults.
So there's this fine line to walk when it comes to. Managing kids too much and controlling kids too much versus, letting them have their time together. We know, for example, that summers when kids are hanging out solely with other teenagers, with no adults around gives us the the, is the recipe for initiation of substance use.
But what's the alternative to keep your teenager home and never ever let them be unsupervised with other teenagers? No, clearly we can't do that. There's a fair amount of balancing to be done here in adolescence.
[00:20:01] Hunter: So I guess this goes back to this information piece because it's interesting cuz I can see that in my own child, like some even things about having them be informed about how screen time and different apps and things are affecting the brain and how they're trying to, and having her see, the conversations that we're having and this information I can see is making an impact on the choices that might.
Child makes, I can see that information making impacts. So this idea of talking about substance abuse with kids when they're younger, how young do we start talking about it or how it affects the brain and how do we start?
[00:20:42] Jessica Lahey: So the best substance use prevention programs, actually ones that have been assessed from objective outside third party.
People are start in pre-K and kindergarten as, which is why the addiction inoculation gives scripts for parents talking about this stuff. And as I've said, this is not like talking to kindergartners about crystal methamphetamine use. This has to do with talking to kindergartners about, why some.
Substances like toothpaste, stay are topical and we don't swallow them because they'll make our stomach upset and they can make us feel a little bit sick. That's something that we put just on our teeth, but we don't ingest into our body or why we don't, take those pretty tide pods and eat those, that kind of thing.
That whole protecting your body and understanding that some things aren't meant to go inside the body. They're only for the outside. And then, graduating into a conversation about. This pill bottle on the counter, that's a prescription for mommy. Why can mommy take this, but no one else?
Why should n why should I as the kid not take this medication that's made for my mommy? And conversations around that are really important as well, because as we know, From the statistics that if kids are gonna misuse prescription, for example, opioids and or misuse them, that they are most likely to get those from their own medicine cabinet or a friend's medicine cabinet.
These conversations are super important and they have to start really young. So yeah, we start pre-K kindergarten. Now, what
[00:22:18] Hunter: if you are. A person who has struggled with addiction in your own life and how does one disclose that to their kids and talk about that.
[00:22:29] Jessica Lahey: That's such a great question.
So it really depends. I I got sober in, I. 2013, June 7th, 2013. My kids were nine and 14, and I told them immediately, they already had some history. They knew about substance use disorder because one of their grandparents was actively still using at that point. Thank goodness that person's now in recovery.
And holidays had been ruined by, Alcohol. It had been a thing that they knew about and, but we had to be really honest about it because kids who have genetics first or second degree relative with substance use disorder. Have an increased risk of substance use disorder. It's about 50 to 60% of the risk picture, whereas childhood trauma, adverse childhood experiences and a couple, a host of a couple of other things make up the other 40 to 50%.
That's the best research we have right now That comes from, mark shook it at University of California at San Diego, and. So talking about that I don't, didn't have a choice. If my kids are at increased risk for substance use disorder from a genetic standpoint, not to mention an epigenetic or an environmental standpoint I just didn't have time to mess around and not talk about it.
So my kids have been talking about their brains and drugs and alcohol and the impact on the brain and all this other stuff from the time that, you know, from as early as I can remember. And your choice about how to come out to your kids that's really quite personal. I work at a rehab called Santa at STO in STO, Vermont.
And one of my roles there is to start this conversation with the clients about, okay, you have kids. How are we, once you get out of here and go home, how are these conversations gonna happen with your family? And, everyone handles it slightly differently. And. But from my perspective and from the perspective of, the reams and reams of research that I've read, honesty really does tend to be the best policy.
And talking to kids from a perspective of here's all the information I can give you on what it does to your brain. Your maybe a kid perceives that, oh, but all of my friends or all of my classmates are doing it. We have really good data from the monitoring the future report that comes out every year on exactly how many kids in eighth grade, 10th grade, and.
12th grader doing it, and less than 25% of eighth graders report that they've had more than a sip of alcohol by the end of eighth grade. So if your eighth grader knows that and someone comes to them and says, oh, come on, have a drink, it's no big deal. Everybody's doing it. They can know. A, it is a big deal because I know it can do to my brain.
And B, not everybody's doing it. It's not like they have to say these things out loud, but at least they have what's called. This is actually inoculation theory, which is why the word inoculation is in the title of the book, the Addiction Inoculation. Because we know that confers protection against kids.
It gives them the refusal skills they need to, and the self-confidence and the self-efficacy to feel like they can push back even if it's just in their own head. And the cool thing about Inoculation theory, is it cross pollinates to other high risk behaviors like having sex before you're ready, getting in a car with drunk driver, that kind of stuff.
So when we inoculate kids, when we give kids refusal skills and help them feel like they really have the information to push back yeah, it generalizes. So it's pretty powerful stuff. That's
[00:26:09] Hunter: great. I love this. And this goes to a lot of the conversations, we've had on the podcast and going back to talking to Amy Lang about talking to your kids about sex and all, having them being informed and information has a huge impact.
[00:26:25] Jessica Lahey: The problem here though, with sex and with alcohol and drugs, is that people like, oh, if we talk about it, that will give them an idea to you. No, us talking about it gives them real. Solid information that can help them actually resist it not, it's not I don't know many kids who grew up in a bubble not knowing that like alcohol exists.
In fact, kids as young as three can tell the difference between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. And even when kids are really young, one out of every 11 cartoons has alcohol in it, and usually around three instances of it, and between 52 and 57% of G and PG movies have alcohol in them with 30% of that being branded used by like the hero in the film.
So this is not information that like if we start sharing it with our kids, that they're gonna be like, oh, I had no idea that addictive substances existed. Let me go try those. That's just backwards thinking.
[00:27:21] Hunter: Speaking of the information, when we were kids, we were shown that video on the commercial, this is your brain, the frying egg, and this is your brain on drugs, in the frying pan.
And we were all like, okay, this is like maybe backfired on us. Cuz then, my brain didn't feel like a fried egg. What are we telling kids about how it is affecting the
[00:27:42] Jessica Lahey: brain? Yeah, so first of all that I, I happen to love that ad. However, we do know that scared straight messaging doesn't work. So if you, if your school's idea of drug and alcohol prevention is to have some re per person in recovery, come and talk about just how bad things got in their life.
We know that does not work. It does not work. Also just say no, doesn't work. We have to give them the actual tools and the actual data and stuff like that. So the best possible prevention, spoiler alert, the very best school-based programs, for example, are social emotional learning programs.
With these health components. And I list all of them. I list a bunch of them in the addiction inoculation. There are places you can go to get rankings and ratings and efficacy studies on the programs that are out there. The sad story having to do with schools is that only 57% of the schools in this country have any kind of substance use disorder or subs, excuse me, substance use prevention program.
And of that 57%, only 10% of them are based on evidence like. Have any sort of efficacy proven. So we're really mucking that up. And then the other thing we know works is from an early age, giving kids information about, what drugs and alcohol can do to them, why it messes with their decision making, all that other stuff so that we can at least send them out there with a vote of confidence to say, you know what?
By giving you all this information, what I'm doing is trusting you to make some good decisions based on this information. And that vote of confidence goes a long way with kids. And kids that are not trusted, no, they're not trusted. And it, giving kids of our vote of confidence is really important, within healthy parameters, obviously.
[00:29:31] Hunter: Awesome. I love that. Okay, so then if I go inside tonight and I say to my 12 year old about to turn 13, honey, I made a mistake. I was wrong. I should not have had you sip my wine and it is actually not helpful for you. And in fact what should I be telling her it is doing to her brain?
[00:29:51] Jessica Lahey: So what I would do is I would say, sweetie, you know what?
I did the best I could with the information that I had. I have always, tried to be the best possible parents based on the information that I have. And sometimes I learn new stuff and I realize that something I did may not have been the best decision. And I learned this thing about alcohol that the earlier you try alcohol Number one, the more damage it can do to your brain, it can mess up.
Not just how the chemicals in the brain talk to each other and how our brains build these things called synapses, and how the lower part of our brain connects to the upper part of our brain that essentially our brains need to be as free as possible without. Outside interference to develop the way they're supposed to develop.
And the later, the older you are before trying drugs and alcohol and using drugs and alcohol on a consistent basis, then you the more we can protect your brain. I also learned that the longer we can delay you using drugs and alcohol, the less likely you're gonna be as a grownup to have a real problem with drugs and alcohol, to not be able to control it.
That's how I would talk to a kid of that age. And to say, it's not And the other message that's really important is it's not oh, you had someone, you were younger. That's it. It's all over. I screwed you up. It's that, for example, if your kid goes out and gets drunk and you find out about it, the answer to this is, oh my gosh, you're ruined.
It's all over. I might as well not try anymore. For me, if I were to relapse and have a drink, What I would be doing is saying, okay, what did I learn from that so that I cannot repeat that going forward? It's not like I'm broken. It's that I mistepped and now I need to figure out how to do better.
It's why the messaging that some kids get about if you, if to girls for example, if you have sex, Before marriage, then you're a piece of chewed up used gum that no one's gonna want, which is messaging that some kids get. This is not like that. This is oh, okay, so we did it one way.
It turns out we can do better. And here's what we're gonna do moving forward. My 19 year old jokes about it, like to her friends. She's yeah, no, we're not gonna get a little bit of the wine that we're having with Thanksgiving. Cuz my mom wrote this dumb book about preventing substance use and kids, and she jokes about it.
But if you were to ask her seriously, like why are we doing this? Why did we change the rules? And she's gonna be, she's gonna say what I said, which is essentially that. I'm doing sort of my Parenting best practices when it comes to substance use prevention, and the reason we changed the rules is because I learned some things and figured out how
[00:32:45] Hunter: to do better.
I love that. That's beautiful.
[00:32:48] Jessica Lahey: And that's all we can ever ask of them, right? That's all we can ever ask of our kids, which is, yeah, do the best with the information that you have on hand. And if you learn how to do better or you make a mistake, apologize and go forward with using the best possible information you have.
[00:33:07] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcast right after this break.
One thing we know that is that substance abuse, it looks different in boys and girls. What are these, some of these
[00:33:21] Jessica Lahey: differences? So when you look at predictors, so I have said that, early. Initiation of let's say alcohol leads to higher risk of alcohol use disorder over your lifetime.
And one of the predictors for early alcohol use or early substance use is one of them is being male Males tend to initiate earlier than females. We also know that white kids tend to initiate earlier than black kids. We know that kids whose parents drink initiate earlier than kids whose parents don't drink.
We know that kids whose parents have Where the sort of the family culture is pro alcohol, that it's like drinking is a positive. Those kids tend to initiate earlier. So keeping all of that in mind, the boys versus girls thing has one added layer to it, which is that girls interestingly, I don't, you've probably heard that, like the recommendations for how much people should drink are different for men versus women.
It's usually higher for men and lower for women. That has to do with the fact that alcohol gets processed anyway. Boys tend to have more muscle. Women tend to have more fat Per, pound and men can metabolize alcohol a little bit faster than women because of that, because they have more water content in their bodies.
The other thing is that women tend to have less of this one particular enzyme that helps break alcohol down. And so they are not only just from a body composition perspective, less able to b to break the alcohol down, it's also due to this one particular enzyme. So that's why those numbers tend to be different for men versus women.
Drink, if women are trying to match men drink for drink, we're gonna get in trouble a lot earlier than the men of the same age. Same, height and weight kind of thing. So there's a whole bunch of different things going on there that, are important to talk to kids about.
[00:35:25] Hunter: can talk to our teens about that. And I would probably even talk to my daughter. My daughter's about to turn 16. She's not in a partying scene. She's like she has, she's socially Things are happening, it's post pandemic, et cetera. It's stuff like that. So she really finds the idea of alcohol really repulsive and from everything.
I can tell from her, but I would have this conversation with her just so she knows for her friends even as well. Even if it's not something that, yeah.
[00:35:57] Jessica Lahey: Since we're bringing up friends, kids whose friends drink are gonna be more likely to drink themselves. Or use drugs themselves. That's a no-brainer.
But anytime we come up against a statistic that just seems so obvious that everyone just takes it at face value, of course I have to do a really d deep dive into it to figure out to take it apart because that's the journalist and me. And so I have an entire chapter in the addiction inoculation on peers and peer influence on on kids.
And it's a little bit more complicated than. That, although if we were just gonna give people one piece of information, it's that yes, if your kid's friends drink and use drugs, your kid is more likely to drink and use drugs. And like I said, there's some subtleties to that. The one of the stories I tell in the addiction inoculation is that that freaked me out because my son, Ben, I was really good friends with this kid named Brian.
And Brian got kicked outta high school for drug and alcohol use and behavioral stuff, and Ben and his friends really wanted to remain loyal to Brian and go visit him in rehab and let him know that they were still behind him. And the parent and me wanted to just yell, no flee. Don't ever be friends with that kid again because he uses, and that makes you more likely to use.
In the end, it was a little more complicated than that. My kid and his friends turned out to be a really good influence on Brian and actually helped. He cites this one moment where after he got permanently kicked out of school he went for a run with my son and a bunch of their friends from the cross country team.
And he cites that moment as a real breakthrough for him because he realized everything he had to lose if he didn't make this work. And on the other hand, my kid got a massive object lesson in the consequences that can go along with drug and alcohol use. And I think it was highly beneficial for both of them.
But in a vacuum, it is true that if your kid's, friends use than your kid is more likely to use.
[00:38:07] Hunter: Okay. We know that this our, the peers have an enormous influence, enormous pressure. You have wonderful ways in the book, in the chapter on everyone's doing it for kids to help them say no. And so we know that just saying, no, this is not what's gonna work for them.
So talk us through this. How can we help our kids resist their, the peer pressure
[00:38:32] Jessica Lahey: from their friends? So the idea behind inoculation messaging is similar to, the thing, it's named after vaccines. So the idea is you. Show them something that's a kind of a weakened form of the approach that someone might ask you if you wanna drink at a party, whatever, and give them ammunition to at least in their own heads no, everyone's not doing it.
Or Here's what it's doing to my brain, or whatever, in order to combat that. So that's what an inoculation messaging is all arou about, so that when the real approach comes, they'll feel empowered. In order to refuse it. So there's that. But then there's also we keep talking about the information and how important the information is.
And that's because for kids for e everyone, for me in particular, but for people in general, the why is what's so important. We can't just say, no, you're not allowed to drink in this house. You can, but it, you're gonna be less effective than if you say, No, you are not allowed to drink in this house for a bunch of reasons.
If you wanna go super obvious, we can talk legality, but if you wanna go, brain development, all that other stuff, here's what's actually happening. And don't underestimate that. Teaching kids about their brain. Even if we're talking about. I got to visit a kindergarten where in that kindergarten they were teaching kids about the function of the lower brain versus the function of the upper brain.
And when we're operating from our lower brain, we're more likely to react to just, haul off and punch someone cuz they said something that made us mad. But that's our lower brain stuff. And if we wanna operate from the upper part of the brain, which is like the adulting part of the brain, the part that you know, can understand the why's and where fors of pro-social behavior.
We we learned that, oh, okay, take a breath, maybe do a little box breathing. Understand that we don't have to react from our first our first emotion that we can actually process that information from a big kid place. That's essentially what they're teaching those kids, and that has a huge impact on.
Empowering kids, helping them understand that sometimes they do wanna react to the punch, but that's just because that's how their lower brain works. And we have to try to think from our upper brain, from our big kid brain. It's really important stuff. And it, this applies for drug, drug and alcohol prevention and sex ed and all this stuff.
Helping them understand that it's not their fault, that they are highly reactive. Because their lower brain, their amygdala, the limbic system is in overdrive. But that, the ideal is to try to let your op, your upper brain have more have a share in the thinking as well. So that's really important.
So the answer, the big answer is the why's tend to be really important for kids. Do it because I said so. Do it because I'm an adult and I, those don't tend to work very well. But we do it this way because X, Y, Z we have to give kids expectations. Yeah.
[00:41:36] Hunter: I think this is so important at every age, right?
This is, at tiny, young ages, but I love what you have some sneaky things in here about how to help kids, how to help kids resist peer pressure once. Yeah, I that's my favorite part of the book.
Once they understand all the why's and things like that, there's some great sneaky things in here about how to resist peer pressure.
Like you can tell your kid. To tell their friends that alcohol gives 'em migraines or to be the bed designated driver. It's like sudden it's like brilliant ideas. I say that's my favorite part of the book, but I can say that because I didn't really write that part of the book. Like those are, those all came from kids.
[00:42:17] Jessica Lahey: I asked adolescents to tell me. What excuses they could use that would make them not feel like big nerdy dorks or save face or whatever at a party. And these were suggestions they gave me. And especially if a lot of them are really important, like the migraine thing, super important. I have a, I have trouble sleeping well, alcohol's not gonna help with that.
If you're of Asian descent, you have, you are less likely to have the enzymes that you need in order to process that alcohol, and it can cause flushing and real bodily discomfort that's very uncomfortable. There's lo, I have an early track practice. By all means, throw me under the bus as the parent.
I can't, my parents drug test and I can't, or my parents breathalyze, any of these answers. As long as you can come up with something that works for you then, rather than just saying, oh, just say, no, you're stronger than that, you're smarter than that. Give them these kid tested, kid approved, ways of saying no.
That will make them feel like they can, still save face and yet, stick to their guns.
[00:43:25] Hunter: I love these ways. They're so great. This is so helpful. This is so helpful, I think, for so many of us to parents of younger children, for teenagers to just help us get on the right track of what's.
What is actually helpful? What is ev? Evidence-based information. I love that your obsession with research that I discovered in many ways, but yes. This is amazing. So the addiction inoculation, raising healthy kids in a culture of dependence. Help you get your kids so that they're inoculated, so that they're safe in a culture that is n not so safe for kids.
[00:44:06] Jessica Lahey: And can I add one quick thing, which is that all of, so like I, even if I follow every single guideline that the I came, I discovered through the research. I can't guarantee that my kids are not gonna have substance use disorder over their lifetimes. But getting to the point where, you need help with your.
Substance use disorder is like a 100 piece puzzle. And for me, I got really lucky. My dad was the hundredth piece that clicked into place that, and he said, you need help. And I was ready to hear it, but he couldn't have been that hundredth piece without one through 99 being present.
And for a lot of kids, they don't get a lot of information, so they have to start at like piece 20 or piece 25 or whatever. But I'm hoping that a lot of this prevention work. Are those pieces, there's a saying in recovery that it's never as much fun to go out after you've gotten some information about, the harm drugs and alcohol can do to your brain and your body and your life.
That it really harsh is your buzz. And I'm okay with harshing, my kids buzz because I want them to have as much information as possible so that if they do realize that they're starting to go down the road of having an issue with drugs and alcohol, they'll be further along than I was. They'll have piece 50 or they'll have piece 55 or whatever that is.
This prevention also serves as the getting to 100 piece when it comes to admitting that you need help. This is
[00:45:32] Hunter: so helpful. Thank you, Jessica, for putting together this work and doing this work that you do. I know that you do in Vermont as well, and I really appreciate it. And of course I love Jess's first book, the New York Times bestseller, the Gift of Failure.
So helpful. Go. And I'll share in the outro what number episode that is because I haven't looked it up right now, but you can listen to Jess talk about it with me there. And and thank you so much for taking the time, for coming on again to talk to me about it. It's so important. I really appreciate you doing this work.
Where can people find out
[00:46:14] Jessica Lahey: about you and what you're doing? I. You can find everything at jessica leahy.com. The blog post that happens to be pinned to the top is the one with all of the table of contents for all of the 130 something videos I've made daily about all of the contents of the addiction inoculation.
You can find me on Twitter at jess Leahy and on Instagram at Teacher Leahy. Thank you so much, Jess. I have to thank you. You've been an incredible supporter, a good friend, a kind human being that is just really great at translating what's good for kids and good for parents to people that really need the information, and I'm really grateful for what you do.
[00:47:03] Hunter: I hope you found this episode helpful. I certainly did. I think it's so important. I have been talking about alcohol differently with my kids, and I think this is really important, and this book is just such a gift for all of us to help change and shift things in this country. If you love this episode, please do me a favor and share it.
Share it with your friends, share it with people, share it on Facebook, on Instagram, all that stuff. Tag me in it at Mindful Mama mentor, and let me know what your takeaways are. I would love that. As always, I wanna let you know that if you want more support with Parenting, it is a great idea to do that.
It really helps you, your family, your kids, and it can be the best investment you ever make in your life. And we have the Mindful Parenting membership here to support you. Now, every single member gets. A one-on-one coach has sessions with a coach and we have group sessions with me. You have all the curriculum.
It's so powerful. It can make it such a big difference. So if you want more support that is there for you, go to Mindful Parenting course.com and listen. I hope this was helpful. I hope you have a great week. I hope you have connection and joy and love with your kiddos. I am going to be doing that too. I'm gonna be doing, I'm gonna be honoring both the parent and me.
And the person that's, beyond the role of parent. One thing I've been super into is I am into now Scottish country dancing and have been for a while now. And so tonight I'm going to a Scottish country dance class. We're all gonna go out for a drink after. And this is a way to honor myself beyond my role as a mom.
And I think that it's so important for you to have ways to honor yourself beyond the role of Parent two. So I invite you to find that thing for you wherever it is. And maybe it's, gosh, you're dancing. It's all over the world. It's so fun. And we'll see each other at a dance, which would be cool. Anyway.
Wishing you a great week, wishing you peace and joy and all those beautiful things. Thank you for being here. Thank you for listening and choosing us. I really appreciate it. I will talk to you again next week, my friend. Namaste.
[00:49:28] Jessica Lahey: I'd say definitely do it. It's really
[00:49:30] Hunter: helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you
[00:49:34] Jessica Lahey: communicate better and just, I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse, it's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.
It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more. With them and not feeling like you yelling all the time, or you're like, why isn't things working? I would say definitely to it. It's so worth it.
It'll change you no matter what age someone's child is. It's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working, or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift.
Everything in your Parenting,
[00:50:32] Hunter: are you frustrated by Parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?
Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting membership. You'll be joining hundreds of members who have discovered the path of Mindful Parenting and now have confidence in clarity in their Parenting. This isn't just another Parenting class.
This is an opportunity to really discover your unique lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to. Mindful Parenting course.com to add your name to the wait list, so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment.
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