By Jodie Lynn
My seven- and nine-year-old children love to drink tea. Is this safe for them to do so or should it be limited to one or two cups a week? My husband thinks it keeps them up at night and tired during the day at school even though it's caffeine-free.
ANSWER FROM READER:
Our children, who are the same age as your kids, enjoy sipping hot tea during the winter. However, we only use the natural herbal teas in various fruit or mint flavors that are caffeine-free. We also have a few rules, one of which is that they do not drink it after 5:00 at night on school days and only three times each week. We try to be sure that they do not have more than one and a half cups. So far, we have not noticed any problems. - Jim and Joy Brown in Norfolk, VA
Be sure it is not labeled as “decaffeinated,” as that does not mean the same as “caffeine-free.” “Decaffeinated” means that the tea originally had caffeine in it but has gone through a process to remove most of it. Even though by law a tea that is labeled as “decaffeinated” must contain less than 2.5 percent of the original caffeine level, it still equates to a tad less than 2 mg in each cup. Even though this is a small amount, it is not considered to be caffeine-free and could certainly affect some people, especially children. Another common mistake is if one of the ingredients is matteine. It contains a compound very similar to caffeine and should also not be given to children. Caffeine-free is a product that has never contained caffeine and should be safe for most children. If your kids are consuming only one or two cups a week of caffeine-free tea, maybe there are other culprits you may want to check out. For example, monitor what they are using to sweeten their tea with. Sugar can certainly charge up the energy level as well as other kinds of sweeteners. Frequently, when kids or adults enjoy a cup of tea, it is being consumed with some type of dessert or snack. While most parents know that sugar can cause some challenges with kids, we have a tendency to forget that if cookies, pie, cake, ice cream, yogurt, etc. contain chocolate, it is double trouble for many kids because chocolate contains various amounts of caffeine. This could certainly cause your kids to stay up at night if it is consumed right before bedtime and may leave them tired the next day from lack of adequate sleep. In the end, remind your husband that in many countries across the world, children drink tea daily and suffer no ill effects. Not all tea is caffeinated and much, if not all, of its varieties can be beneficial to your health.
CAN YOU HELP?
My nine-year-old son is turning ten in a few months and does not want to invite certain kids to his party. We have always included the whole class. Is this acceptable? I'm a little embarrassed by this sudden change and don't know how to handle it.
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