Is Your Middler Schooler Drinking? High Schooler?

Great story over at the West Seattle Blog about a mother and son who wrote a book about their journey as he started drinking. Chris (mom) and Toren (son) Volkmann will be speaking on April 8th at 7 pm at Madison Middle School. Their book is Binge to Blackout. From the article:

"A focus of Chris’s advocacy is pointing out that the human brain is still developing until age 23: “Toren and I like to talk about how much research has changed. … A lot of parents don’t realize how much damage can be done. The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to form - and that’s at age 20 for girls, age 23 for boys. That’s a huge length of time to be susceptible to extreme damage.”

And if you start drinking in 6th grade, there's plenty of time to harm a young brain.

How to start the discussion? Here's some great ideas:

"So, we ask, how to open that discussion - at any age - without getting the eye roll, the “yeah, yeah, you’ve gone through all this before, I know, I know” response?
Chris replies: “In our book we have a little section of questions … to ask before your kid goes to college. These could be questions you could start around middle school.” She lists some of these open-ended questions, suggesting you might ask them periodically, to see if your child/ren’s answers change:
**How will you decide whether or not to drink?
**What will you do if you find one of your friends passed out?
**What will you do if you’re asked to ‘babysit’ someone who has drank too much?"

And those last two could mean life or death for your child. So many kids who drink, especially in college, can be in a situation where either everyone else is drunk and doesn't notice how bad off he or she is OR can see someone slipping away and doesn't know what to do.

Learning about drinking, at an early age, is important in our country where we do have a lot of advertising for beer and wine, alcohol problems starting younger and younger and sadly, parents who either don't know enough ("not my kid") or don't believe it's a problem ("everyone drinks when they become teenagers") .

Don't believe, especially if your child is in middle school, that they won't try it. You may want to believe that but think back how you felt under peer pressure.


Inga Manskopf said…
For those of you who are concerned about underage drinking, two school-based community coalitions are working to reduce underage drinking rates in communities where youth alcohol use is higher than the state average: West Seattle and northeast Seattle.

The West Seattle coalition -- the SW Healthy Youth Partnership -- is based out of Madison Middle School and is the coalition hosting the Binge to Blackout speakers.

The NE Seattle coalition -- Prevention Works In Seattle -- is based out of Eckstein Middle School and their website is and their blog is

Both are funded by a grant through the Washington State Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse and provide prevention programs including Life Skills Training for middle school students and Guiding Good Choices parenting workshops.

Underage drinking and youth substance abuse create serious barriers to learning and, like most issues affecting our students, won't be solved unless there is a community-wide prevention effort.
Anonymous said…
You should check out Storybox. They are great for kids aged 3-6 and have a great SamSam activity area for kids!
Jet City mom said…
I think everyone should be concerned about inappropriate drinking, not just underage.

At Summit- they had a drug/alcohol counselor and while she primarily worked with high school, the middle school students were comfortable enough, that when my daughter and her friends, were concerned about one of their peers and substance use, the counselor helped them talk with her.

( and when her friends were concerned about my daughter with a different issue, they again contacted the counselor and met with her, and she contacted me- I had, had no idea.)

I am very grateful to have been alerted, because I then was able to take additional measures.

My older daughters school, had, Party Patrol, just having the meeting at school for parents, gave us an additional chance to discuss the issue and get on the same page.

Garfield also has a very good health program ( I assume it is the same at all high schools? )
I really liked some of the topics, and I had the impression the kids took it seriously and were thoughtful about the subject.

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