Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can be devastating

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dear Dr. Dobson: I just found out that I'm pregnant. My doctor warned me not to drink anything with alcohol in it until the child is born. I'm used to having a few beers after work, and I like a cocktail several times a week. Is it really necessary for me to give up all alcohol until my baby arrives?

Dear Reader: I urge you to heed the advice of your physician. That precious baby inside of you could be severely damaged if you continue to drink in the next few months. Your child could have what is known as "fetal alcohol syndrome," which can cause heart anomalies, central nervous system dysfunction, head and facial abnormalities and lifelong behavior problems. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is also thought to be the leading cause of mental retardation. It is a terrible thing to inflict on a child. Babies can be harmed by alcohol in the blood of the mother at any time throughout gestation, but they are especially vulnerable during the first trimester. That's why you should not drink during the remaining seven months of your pregnancy; but by all means, don't swallow a drop of alcohol right now.

You may remember the story of Samson in the Old Testament who terrorized his enemies, the Philistines. Before he was born, his mother was told by an angel that her child was destined for greatness, and that she must not weaken him by imbibing strong drink while she was pregnant. Medical science has now verified the wisdom of that advice. That's why a similar warning to pregnant women is posted by law wherever liquor, beer or wine are sold.

For you and for all pregnant women and those who anticipate becoming pregnant -- don't take chances with your baby's future. There is no level of alcohol that is known to be safe. Abstain for the entire nine months. You and your baby will be glad you did.

Dear Dr. Dobson: Sometimes my husband and I disagree on our discipline and argue in front of our children about what is best. Do you think this is damaging?

Dear Reader: Yes, I do. You and your husband should present a united front, especially when children are watching. If you disagree on an issue it can be discussed later in private. Unless the two of you can come to a consensus, your children's perception of right and wrong will begin to appear arbitrary. They will also make an "end run" around the tougher parent to get the answers they want.

There are even more serious consequences for boys and girls when parents are radically different in their approach. Some of the most hostile, aggressive teenagers I've seen have come from families where the parents have leaned in opposite directions in their discipline. Suppose the father is unloving and disinterested in the welfare of his children. His approach is harsh and physical. The mother is permissive by nature. She sets out to compensate for the lack of love in the father-child relationship. When he says "no" to a particular request, she finds a way to say "yes." She lets the children get away with murder because it is not in her spirit to confront them.

What happens under these circumstances is that the authority figures in the family cancel out each other. Consequently, the child is caught in the middle and often grows up hating both. The "middle ground" between extremes of love and control must be sought if we are to produce healthy, responsible children.

Send your questions to Dr. James Dobson, c/o Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80903. Dobson is the chairman of the board for Focus on the Family.

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