Thick, velvety chocolate mocha agitated until it’s bubbly. A blob of fluffy whipped cream the size of a cupcake. Top it off with chocolate shavings, cinnamon, or party sprinkles … what’s not to like about a frothy latte, especially if you’re a preteen aching to look and sip like a grown-up?
If you’re a health-conscious parent, what’s not to like may be the caffeine content. One Starbucks® latte, at 150 mg of caffeine, is well past the expert-recommended daily maximum of 85 mg for kids ages 10-12. (It’s not just coffee-based drinks: a 64-ounce mini-mart Mountain Dew® maxes out the meter at 293 milligrams.) Caffeine, say pediatric medical experts, can be responsible for dehydration, anxiety, tension, headaches, and stomachaches.
Many preteens are choosing to check out coffee drinks for the caffeine rush, or the perceived coolness of striding into school sipping a frothy frappe. How can you balance your preteen’s caffeinated curiosity with parental prudence? Percolate on these points:
Monitor your own caffeine intake. Yep, your example matters! Keep an eye on what you ingest. (200-300 mg per day is considered moderate adult consumption.) If you need to dial it down, start small. Switch one caffeinated drink a day for milk, water, or juice.
Try some trade-offs. When you feel the occasion calls for a treat, provide your preteen with some lower-caffeine options, such as decaffeinated soda, flavored teas (significantly lower in caffeine than coffee counterparts), or homemade milkshakes flavored with a tiny bit of coffee or caramel syrup.
Encourage kitchen creativity. For the price of three or four expensive coffees, you can buy a blender and encourage your preteen to create sweet and healthy smoothies, shakes, and other caffeine-free drink treats. (Search on “drink recipes for kids” at www.allrecipes.com for a gallon of great ideas.) The together time as you taste and create together is well worth the investment in ingredients!
Mathis also writes for FLYTE, LifeWay’s new curriculum for preteens.