Category Archives: General Information

Why It’s Good To Talk With Your Children About Alcohol

Why is it good to talk to your children about alcohol? …Because your child can adopt a healthier, happier attitude to alcohol the more you talk to them about it.

There are plenty of reasons why we should talk to our children about drinking and sooner you start the conversation the better (although, it’s never too late).

Young children listen to their parents 

Young children look up to their parents and will listen to what you say. With teenagers, it’s natural and normal for them to pull away and make their friends their focus. What their peers think or believe becomes more important to them.

However, what you think feel about them remains central to their lives. They still look for your approval as well as your love, however disdainful they may seem of your opinion.

Children value your advice

Your children may say you don’t understand or know anything… but young people still pay attention to what you say and how you feel. But you need to earn their respect: the more you admit when you don’t know something, the more you listen to them, the more you offer praise when they get it right rather than criticism when they get it wrong, the more likely it will be that they come to you for advice and take it.

If you don’t talk to your child about alcohol, someone else will

There are plenty of people out there who will answer their questions about alcohol or listen to them if you don’t. The problem is that they may be friends who have as confused and inaccurate an idea as they do. Or there might be websites or people on the internet who could lead them astray.

Saying nothing or evading the issue does not mean the questions go away, just that they go elsewhere.

Preventing underage drinking is vital for their health and success in life

Underage drinking really can have an impact on the rest of your child’s lives. It’s never too early to talk about alcohol but it’s also never too late. Even if they have tried alcohol, you can still help them to stop drinking. They need to hear you say you love them and that this is not about you being a killjoy. It’s about your care for them, your desire for them to reach their full potential and be happy.

The more you talk about drinking, the happier they will be

It’s not about ‘having the talk’ because it’s not a one-off lecture. It’s about building the habit of listening to each other and sharing thoughts and opinions, about negotiating and compromising.

When children feel they can come to you about anything and you’ll listen with respect and answer to the best of your ability they’ll stay close and come to you more often.

They’ll already have questions about alcohol

If your children haven’t asked you about alcohol it might be because they haven’t got questions. But it’s just as likely that they’ve already assumed this is not something you feel comfortable talking about.

Don’t forget they learn about alcohol from so many places – if not you then the media, friends, family. They have the questions – they need you to make it clear you will answer them.

Questions you may have

Surely my child is too young to drink?

Clearly you need to tailor what you say to their age. The key is to answer questions and be guided by what they already know, not to blast in with a prepared speech.

If they have the questions they deserve an answer.

But won’t it encourage them to drink alcohol underage?

No, it won’t. Talking through an issue properly does not promote irresponsible behaviour. Look at that other subject where people sometimes say you should keep children in innocence. Research shows that children who are given good sex education leave their first steps into sexual experience later than those left in ignorance, and they make safer choices2.

Talking it through does not implant ideas in their head – talk to them and you’ll find out what they already know, which they would have picked up from the world around them.

Won’t they think I’m a hypocrite?

The best example to set your kids is either not to drink or to drink within the recommended Canada-Low-Risk-Alcohol-Drinking-Guidelines-Brochure-en. But telling them they shouldn’t drink when you do doesn’t make you a hypocrite. There is a reason that the Chief Medical Officers recommend an alcohol-free childhood is best. Young people’s bodies, and particularly their brains, are still developing, which makes young people more vulnerable than adults to the risks of even small amounts of alcohol.

It can be a tough discussion to have – most teenagers think they’re all grown up. But they do understand that there are aspects of their life that are different to yours, like studying and taking exams. One of the associated risks of underage drinking alcohol can have a significant impact on memory and concentration.

Won’t my child learn about alcohol in school?

Your child’s school may indeed be covering the subject of alcohol, although it’s not compulsory so they may only be tackling some aspects. It’s an excellent idea to see you and the school as partners adding to what the other is saying and supporting each other. It’s worthwhile asking their school what they are teaching, and encouraging them to cover this important subject in depth.

Asking your child to tell you what they are learning is a good way of opening the discussion. Just leaving it to the school to deal with risks having some of those important questions unanswered.

Your child benefits from knowing they can come to you for more than facts.

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Your health prior to pregnancy: Folic acid


Folic acid

What is folic acid?

Folic acid (also known as folate) is a B-vitamin found in many foods, including dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, meat, eggs, and grains. It is required for the production of new cells and for proper synthesis of DNA. This vitamin is particularly important to a baby’s health and development. To be effective, folic acid must be taken before conception. It is not helpful to start after the pregnancy is established.

Why is folic acid so important in pregnancy?

Folic acid helps prevent some types of birth defects called ‘neural tube defects’. These happen when the fetal spinal column doesn’t close completely or the brain and skull don’t develop properly. Other defects including cleft palate and some heart defects may also be related to inadequate folic acid intake.

How much folic acid should I be taking?

It is not only the amount of folic acid that you take that is important, but the timing. Most neural tube defects happen in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, often before the mother is even aware she is pregnant. Roughly half of pregnancies are unplanned, so even if you are not trying to get pregnant but are of reproductive age, consider taking a daily multivitamin containing 0.4 mg folic acid. If you are trying to conceive, folic acid supplementation differs depending on your particular risk for neural tube defects. In addition to eating a diet rich in folic acid, follow the recommendations in this table.





  • You and your male partner have no personal or family history of birth defects known to be related to folic acid
0.4 mg per day
  • 2-3 months before conception
  • Throughout pregnancy
  • For 4-6 weeks after delivery or as long as breastfeeding continues
  • You or  your male partner have family history of birth defects known to be related to folic acid
  • You have type I or II diabetes
  • You are taking medications known to impact folic acid metabolism (e.g., anti-seizure medications, metformin, methotrexate)
  • You have a condition that reduces folic acid absorption (e.g., Crohn’s, Celiac disease)
1.0 mg per day
0.4-1.0 mg per day
  • At least 3 months before conception until 12 weeks gestation; THEN:
  • From 12 weeks gestation until 4-6 weeks after delivery or as long as breastfeeding continues
  • You or your male partner have a neural-tube defect
  • You have had a previous  neural tube defect pregnancy
4.0 mg per day*
0.4-1.0 mg per day
  • At least 3 months before conception and until 12 weeks gestations; THEN:
  • From 12 weeks gestation until 4-6 weeks after delivery or as long as

*A multivitamin containing 1 mg folic acid, plus 3 single 1 mg folic acid tablets

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How facing ACEs makes us happier, healthier and more hopeful


Won’t it depress people?

Isn’t it triggering?

Aren’t the topics troubling?

Won’t it make people sad or upset?

Fear is what I often fight when talking about ACEs — adverse childhood experiences. It’s not my fear though. It’s the fear others have about all things ACEs. Adversity. Abuse. Addiction. Abandonment. Neglect. Dsyfunction.

I don’t think this fear actually belongs to those of us who have lived with ACEs, who have lived through ACEs, who live with the aftermath of ACEs as adults.

When I found out about ACEs I was overwhelmed with joy. I felt radical relief. What I experienced was a profound sense of validation. It was epic.

I also felt rage because the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and related science hadn’t been shared with me. Not my doctors, therapists, shrinks, teachers, social workers or anyone while I got ready to become a parent.


This one study and it’s 10-question survey changed my life. It changed the way I see myself and feel about myself. It changed the way I parent, prioritize parenting and self-care. It altered the way I think about my past and my parents. It didn’t just change my personal life but my professional life as a writer, health activist and survivor.

It’s a movement and a mission and the meaning is beyond me.


Cissy White

The ACE Study looked at 10 types of childhood trauma: physical, emotional and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; living with a family member who’s addicted to alcohol or other substances or who’s depressed or has other mental illnesses; experiencing parental divorce or separation; having a family member who’s incarcerated, and witnessing a mother being abused.

Other subsequent ACE surveys include racism, witnessing violence outside the home, bullying, losing a parent to deportation, living in an unsafe neighborhood, and involvement with the foster care system. Other types of childhood adversity can also include being homeless, living in a war zone, being an immigrant, moving many times, witnessing a sibling being abused, witnessing a father or other caregiver being abused, involvement with the criminal justice system, attending a zero-tolerance school, etc.

The ACE Study found that the higher someone’s ACE score – the more types of childhood adversity a person experienced – the higher their risk of chronic disease, mental illness, violence, being a victim of violence and a bunch of other consequences. The study found that most people (64%) have an ACE score of one; 12% of the population has an ACE score of 4. Having an ACE score of 4 nearly doubles the risk of heart disease and cancer. It increases the likelihood of becoming an alcoholic by 700 percent and the risk of attempted suicide by 1200 percent. (For more information, go to ACEs Science 101. To calculate your ACE and resilience scores, go to: Got Your ACE Score?)

The ACE Study also found that it didn’t matter what the types of ACEs were. An ACE score of 4 that included divorce, physical abuse, an incarcerated family member and a depressed family member had the same statistical health consequences as an ACE score of 4 that included living with an alcoholic, verbal abuse, emotional neglect and physical neglect.

This one study has done more for me than decades of therapy in helping me understand the impact of post-traumatic stress.

I want that for others. This information should be shared and with people as much as possible. It’s not negative, depressing or upsetting.

Adversity is negative, depressing and upsetting. Trauma is traumatic. But understanding ACEs and their impact is amazing, incredible, medicinal, healthful and hopeful.

It’s hard to convey that deeply and emphatically enough.

I HAPPY CRIED when I saw that others my age, with my ACE score, had been prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication.


It’s not just me? I’m not just weak or a failure or too sensitive?

For the first time, I understood it’s not just a personal problem; it’s a social issue. It’s a cause-and-effect thing.

Mood problems are symptoms. ACEs are the problem. I’m not the problem.

I stopped looking at myself to try to figure out what’s wrong IN me and with me. I saw that thousands of other people with ACE scores suffered the same way. I saw that thousands of other people with lower ACEs scores suffered less and led healthier lives.

This changed everything.

I began hunting for what people with a lower score got that I lacked. I stopped looking for my fundamental flaw or berating myself for showing signs of wear and tear.

This is a profound shift.

  • It’s a shift that makes me feel better in me, as me and about me.
  • It’s a shift that makes me have more compassion for my parents.
  • It’s a shift that made it crystal clear that parenting is the most important thing I will likely ever do and all efforts will help my daughter now and for her lifelong future.

It has practical benefits as well.

I can talk about ACEs, in general, without having to detail my entire story every time I need to go to the doctor or therapist or psychiatrist.

For example, recently the behavioral medicine person at my HMO changed. I had to meet with a new 30-something to prescribe my generic Paxil.

She started to ask me about my life story and history.

“I have an ACE score of 8,” I said.

“What’s that mean?” she asked.

I told her about the ACE Study, the CDC website and ACEs Connection Network, which includes this site, ACEs Too High, and ACEs Connection, a social network for people who are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs science.

She then asked again about my childhood.

“It’s in the file,” I said. “Ifyou want to read it, you can; but knowing my ACE score is enough. Over 90% of people in my age group with my history struggle with anxiety and depression. I’m just here to manage my PTSD.”

I was polite and calm and clear that I didn’t want or need to detail my entire life story. I didn’t want to go into daddy issues or feel shame about abuse or talk about the worst things ever done to me. I’m close to 50.

“This is actually just a drug run,” I said. “I need you to fill my prescription. My PTSD is well-managed. I’m not looking to discuss or process or get feedback. I just need that prescription.”

I was polite but I’ve had PTSD about as long as she has been alive. I do not want to share the story of what caused my PTSD every three months and certainly not with a total stranger.

However, I could tell her a lot by telling her my ACE score. I could tell her a lot without revealing more than I want.

She wanted to know about my childhood and my story, but being abused is not my story. That’s the story of the person who abuses. Being neglected isn’t my story. That’s the story of the person who neglects. My story is living with post-traumatic stress. That’s what I can speak to and about.

Having the language of ACEs, for me, is empowering. I share information she needs in order to write me a prescription but in a way that doesn’t make me feel over-exposed.

I LOVE that. To me, that’s not a repetitive waste of 20 minutes that often is sad, triggering and depressing. Instead, some young, new doctor got to learn more about ACEs, which is about me and about everyone else, too.

Learning about ACEs has not “cured” my PTSD. Going to therapy hasn’t cured it either and takes a lot more time and energy, but no one ever says that shouldn’t happen.

Learning about ACEs has normalized the heck out of most every symptom I have battled, mostly in isolation, for most of my life.

And that’s what makes me a broken record about ACEs. That isn’t happening anywhere else for people like me.

I found something that helped me go from feeling like a failure as a human being on the most fundamental level, no matter how much I tried, to just a human being, who like every other human being, is impacted by ACEs.

Most any other human with high ACEs has symptoms, issues and impact. Most any other human with low ACEs, has fewer symptoms, issues and impact. It means the cumulative impact of trauma is the problem and not me or how I deal with it.

It means traumatic stress is caused by toxic adversity in ways that aren’t all that much of a mystery.

This, just this, all by itself and without doing anything else, is helpful and huge and hopeful.

The only thing depressing about ACEs is that this information wasn’t offered to me sooner when I was younger because it would have helped my healing, parenting and traumatic stress.

I think the ACE questionnaire and study shifts the “what’s wrong with me question?” and changes it to “what happened to me”, as well as:

  • What do I not have that I need more of?
  • What skills and resources and support did others get, that I can try to give myself now as an adult?
  • What do I need to learn so I can teach it to my kid?
  • How can I be a parent with high ACEs who has a child with lower ACEs?
  • How can I make sure my kid gets all that I lacked?

Knowing about ACEs helps me prioritize being available, patient and present as a parent because I now know it’s just as important as if my daughter gets her vaccines, to school on time, and enough to eat.

Think of all the time we worry about fast food, texting and how much sugar our kids eat. What if we talked about ACEs as much?

Why would anyone keep this information from people? I don’t understand.

Those of us with high ACE scores are not traumatized by this knowledge. We are traumatized by trauma.

And honestly, we are stigmatized by the fear of others who are so uncomfortable about what we have lived with and through that they treat us like we are broken or damaged.

I used to compare myself with others thinking I couldn’t measure up. But I realize it’s not just that they eat more kale or work out or have a more optimistic outlook. They got attachment, stability, and safety and it fortified them, sometimes for life.


It’s not just that I’m unlucky. It’s also that they are lucky. They should write their parents thank you notes each and every day. They should realize they benefit from what their parents and community were able to provide so that they keep providing it.

So while it’s true that I can’t change my past. I can change the impact of that past with what I now know about ACEs, in the present. I can understand more why my parents were not able to do so and why it’s been hard for me. With all that, I can help change the future.

This is REALLY GOOD NEWS! Facing ACEs makes this ACE-informed face healthier, happier and a better parent.


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12 Mocktails of Christmas

Count down to Christmas with the 12 mocktails of Christmas advent calendar

The silly season is now upon us and the diary is jam packed with function after function, family gatherings, parties and catch ups all featuring lots of food, drinks and alcohol. For those who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or taking a break from alcohol, Christmas often means trying to fend off the constant offers of alcoholic drinks while making the most of your sparkling water.

NOFASD and Pregnant Pause (FARE – Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education) want to ‘rock the mock’ this Christmas and have compiled the best mouth-watering mocktails for their 12 Mocktails of Christmas advent calendar When mocktails taste this good, who needs alcohol? Ice-cold, fruity and delicious, these handpicked cocktails sans the booze are easy to make and ideal for all occasions. Save the plastic cups for picnics, these liquorless libations need to be served up in proper glassware – going alcohol free doesn’t mean being demoted to the kiddies table.

12 Mocktails of Christmas  will help you count down to the big day through an interactive advent calendar slowly revealing a new recipe during December.  So, whether you’re pregnant, planning a pregnancy, on a health kick, the designated driver or prefer not to drink alcohol or want to be the hostess with the mostest, why not beat the heat this Christmas and with mix it up with these tasty mocktails.


12 to 14 small mint leaves or 6-8 big ones

30 ml fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons brown sugar

120 ml of sparkling mineral water

Put the mint leaves, lime juice and brown sugar in a tall cocktail glass and muddle the leaves. Fill the glass with ice cubes and add the mineral water. Stir to mix up the sugar. Garnish with another mint sprig.

Modified from recipe at

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We are looking for Graduate/Masters Students with an interest in FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)


Graduate/Masters Student with an interest in FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)

We are looking to expand and we could use your help!

The Prevention Conversation: A Shared Responsibility project seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of consuming alcohol when pregnant by promoting a message of abstinence if pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

Supported by the Alberta FASD Cross-Ministry Committee, the project aims to empower medical, health and social service staff to engage in their own FASD prevention conversations with women, partners and communities through the daily work that they do.

This project was developed based on the first and second levels of the Four-Part Model of Prevention (PHAC 2008). The first level utilises community development strategies to raise awareness among women of child-bearing years 18 to 45. The second level supports primary care providers to develop the necessary skills to engage in non-judgmental, empathetic and sensitive conversations about alcohol and pregnancy.

We are now ready to expand the project and the important conversations to adolescents. We are looking for an interdisciplinary team to develop the resources and tools needed to provide the message to an adolescent audience and their supports (teachers, parents, volunteers, etc.)

If you have an interest in the prevention of FASD, this may be an opportunity for you. Disciplines of interest may include but are not limited to, health, education, social sciences and communications.

We believe this would be a time commitment of approximately 6 months and an honorarium will be provided:

Please submit your interest, along with a brief resume of your education and experience.
Independent or group proposals will be accepted. We need to know how you will partner and collaborate with others. Please submit to:
Hazel Mitchell, FASD Prevention Conversation Project Manager at by December 16, 2016.

The Prevention Conversation website ( is a good source of information of what this project is about and the current resources that are available. To support the project, a literature review has been completed.



Women now drinking almost as much as men


Taditionally, alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse have been more commonly associated with men than women. But as more women drink alcohol, a new analysis finds they are catching up with men at an unprecedented rate. This also means women are affected by the same harmful effects of alcohol as men, and the new study highlights the need for women-specific information and educational campaigns in order to reduce the negative effects of alcohol consumption.
[Woman relaxing on a couch holding a glass of wine]
The new study finds women are now drinking almost as much as men.

Historically, men have used alcohol anywhere between 2-12 times more than women, the analysis reports.

However, the new research revealed a steady decrease in the sex ratio of alcohol consumption, alcohol abuse, and related harms.

In the early 1900s, males were twice as likely to consume alcohol than females and almost four times more likely to develop an alcohol-related condition.

By contrast, in the late 1900s, the gender gap has nearly disappeared, with males only 1.1 times likelier to consume alcohol than females and just 1.2 times more likely to experience alcohol-related problems.

The closing gap is most obvious in the youngest adults, namely those born as recently as 1990 and aged between 15-25 years.

The analysis – published in the journal BMJ Open – examined studies that tracked alcohol patterns in participants born as early as 1891, ranging all the way to 2001. The research collected data between 1948-2014 and included more than 4 million people. Some of the studies considered spanned over 30 years or more.

Health risks of alcohol use

Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for global disease, together with smoking, pollution, and high blood pressure.

In 2010, alcohol accounted for 5 percent of deaths worldwide and was the leading risk factor in Eastern Europe, Andean Latin America, and southern sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2012, alcohol accounted for 3.3 million deaths, which is 5.9 percent of the global number of deaths.

In the United States, alcohol is currently listed as the fourth preventable cause of death by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Traditional gender expectations and alcohol consumption

Some studies have pointed to the connection between gender expectations and alcohol consumption patterns. Social norms associate drinking with displays of masculinity, while traditionally defined femininity associates women with abstinence.

Because of sex-based social roles, we also tend to judge women more harshly for using alcohol or having an alcohol addiction.

Gender roles perceived in this traditional way might cause women’s drinking problems to be ignored or mishandled. In fact, a study reported that women often feel that the social stigma stands in the way of seeking and receiving treatment, and women were more likely to report stigmatization than men.

Women must be warned of alcohol risks

The analysis conducted by Slade and team questions traditional assumptions and urges relevant institutions to put women at the center of new prevention and intervention programs:

“Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women, in particular, should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms.”

The study does not provide any explanations for why the gender gap is closing, but speculations include changes in traditionally female gender roles; the researchers point to a study that showed alcohol consumption rates were most similar between men and women in countries where male and female roles were most equal.

The men and women in the analysis were very young and early in their alcohol use, the authors warn. As a result, more studies will have to be carried out as the young males and females age into their 30s and 40s.

Written by Ana Sandoiu

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How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Nadine Burke Harris:

How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. Pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain. This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. An impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.

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