Parenting 101

November 2012

1.  I know most energy drinks contain lots of caffeine and I’m concerned because my 12yo son and his friends drink them all the time.  Is it possible for them to become addicted to these drinks?  Should they be consuming them at all?  Are there long-term effects?  Thank you for whatever information you can provide me.

Caffeine is a stimulant and all stimulants have some addiction risk. Remove someone who normally has a few cups of strong coffee every morning from those cups of Joe and most will get a low grade headache, which is actually a withdrawal symptom. The levels of caffeine in many “Energy” drinks dwarf the amount in coffee,  and other substances such as Taurine and Guarana are often also present.  Most energy drinks contain very high levels of sugar also. Increase one’s energy and desire for exertion, stimulate their cardiovascular and induce a level of sugar that contributes to dehydration and you can have a very dangerous combination (add alcohol and it becomes incredibly dangerous). Is there anything listed you do not want your child to have? Is there anything that you consider beneficial enough to counterbalance any negatives you found? Does a 12-year old need induced energy?

Like many of the new food fads, energy drinks are controversial. For any foods we eat or drinks we consume, we need to educate ourselves as to what’s in them and how they affect us. Read the ingredients of what is in your child’s energy drink yourself and then do some brief Internet research on what you find.  There you will find a plethora of information both positive and negative. We suggest you discuss this information, in an adult manner, with your children and have them weigh both sides of the information you collect.  It is also a good idea to have them collect their own information and compare it with what you found.  This approach is a great tool  to educate ourselves and our children whenever whenever there are tough decisions to be made that may have long term affects on our lives.

2.  Our daughter is a freshman in college in another part of the state.  We’ve been in consistent touch with her since she left for school, but we’re growing concerned because her calls are becoming less frequent, her grades have slipped a bit, she seems less than forthcoming when we ask her about friends, classes, etc. and now she’s talking about not coming home for the holidays.  What can we do from a distance to make sure she’s safe and stays on track?

When our children go away to college, and are over 18, we have surprisingly little control over their behaviors, activities and whereabouts.  They are, in the eyes of our society, our legal system, and the college, legal adults, even if we consider them inexperienced and not yet ready.  This is the reason that teaching our children how to handle freedom and responsibility must start long before they reach this age.  So depending on how much your daughter learned about these life skills before going away to college will determine how well she handles decisions when she is on her own.

Colleges do not send copies of grades to parents, they do not call or inform parents of progress or problems because they view the student as the person solely responsible for their enrollment decisions regardless of who pays for the tuition or boarding.

However, if you control the money, then you have some power of accountability.  Make sure your child knows that your continued financial support is dependent on having a copy of all grades at the end of each grading period, including passing classes and carrying a minimum number of units.

You should put together an agreement if you have a certain grade average expectation (you can even include when to call, if you feel it is necessary).  There should be a simple understanding that if your expectations and/or agreements are not kept, then they lose the opportunity to attend that school, leaving them with the choice to find their own funding, get a job, or come home and go to community college.  Remember, going to college is strictly a privilege and not a right.  It is not possible to control any of their day to day activities, but it is always possible to hold individuals accountable.

Responses to the above parent questions have been provided by members of the South Bay Coalition whose expertise and experience lies in parenting, counseling, and/or substance abuse prevention. The South Bay Coalition is a non-profit partnership of agencies working to prevent substance abuse among our community’s youth. For local resources or more information, please visit our website or if you have questions you’d like our experts to respond to, contact: