My teens know smoking is bad for them. That conversation was a no-brainer. Commercials with stoma-holding victims of throat cancer, cigarette packaging plus their general annoyance with the smell all helped me on that.
My sons also are confident in saying no to drugs when peer pressure comes. And it has, they have told me.
Now there’s a new concern they need to understand, and it’s not one I ever thought I would need to address. Too much caffeine can kill you.
A South Carolina coroner called the official cause of death for 16-year-old high school student this month a “caffeine-induced cardiac event causing a probable arrhythmia.”
Monkey see, monkey do not
My sons are both nearly the same age as the teen who died. Over about two hours, this teen had consumed a Diet Mountain Dew, a cafe latte from McDonald’s and an energy drink.
They see me with an iced tea almost every day. Peers drink coffee-infused beverages and soda as they walk to school. And more caffeine is consumed during the day.
The high school my kids attend is within walking distance of many restaurants and a gas-station convenience store. But, they make their own decisions now.
What I know after chatting with my teens:
- Keep it simple: It went better than I expected, because I kept it simple. Considering that I’ve been called a worry wort and conversations of this nature have elicited eye rolls, I knew it needed to be brief and to-the-point.
- No drama: Avoid social-media speak here. No OMGs or overly dramatic “you won’t believe this, but…” A simple “how many energy drinks do you have in a day?” question opened the conversation. Our boys took the lead after that, providing the answers and leading the conversation. They felt more empowered — and smart.
- Enlist backup: I knew the chat would be best if their dad was a part of it. We talked to our teen sons about the dangers of too much caffeine in the ex’s driveway. A united front works best. But, if there’s a significant other, an equally concerned parent or relative handy, invite them to the conversation. Read the story first so you’re informed. Kids are smart. They’ll ask questions. Be armed with information.
- Check in: Be the observant parent, but not a hovering one. Check back in from time to time. Know what your kid is up to.
‘What I didn’t count on’
So here’s what I didn’t count on. I am watching how much caffeine I’m taking in now. Granted, I’m not a soda person, but I can put away the iced tea like nobody’s business.
And now the cliche (the best kind) that my mom and grandmothers have all echoed — “All things in moderation.”