Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime, to be involved in alcohol-related traffic crashes, and to have serious school-related problems. Speak up now.
Research shows that as a parent, you have more influence on your child’s values and decisions about drinking before he or she begins to use alcohol more than you even realize. According to a toolkitpublished by the US Department of Health and Human Services, “Parents can have a major impact on their children’s drinking, especially during the preteen and early teen years.”
The toolkit explains that while some parents and guardians may feel relieved that their teen is “only” drinking, it is important to remember that alcohol is a powerful, mood-altering drug. Let’s face the facts, underage drinking can lead to a number of terrifying scenarios:
- Alcohol-related traffic crashes are a major cause of death among young people.
- Alcohol is also linked with teen deaths by drowning, suicide, and homicide.
- Teens who use alcohol are more likely to be sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex than teens who don’t drink.
- Young people who drink are more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, including rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.
- Teens who drink are more likely to have problems with school work and school conduct.
- The majority of boys and girls who drink tend to bing (5 or more drinks on an occasion for boys and 4 or more on an occasion for girls) when they drink.
- A person who begins drinking as a young teen is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to use alcohol.
And if you’re not convinced your teen could be susceptible to the pressure to drink underage:
According to a recent national survey:
- 16% of eighth-graders reported drinking alcohol within the past month.
- 32% of eighth-graders reported drinking in the past year.
- 64% of eighth-graders say that alcohol is easy to get.
In other words, it may be time to start talking. But, where do you start?
It’s important to develop an open, trusting line of communication between you and your child to make sure they feel comfortable talking openly with you. This will give you a greater chance of helping to guide him or her toward healthy decisionmaking. A few tips to go about this:
- Encourage conversation. Encourage your child to talk about whatever interests him or her. Listen without interruption and give your child a chance to teach you something new. Your active listening to your child’s enthusiasm paves the way for conversations about topics that concern you.
- Ask open-ended questions. Encourage your teen to tell you how he or she thinks and feels about the issue you’re discussing. Avoid asking questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
- Control your emotions. If you hear something you don’t like, try not to respond with anger. Instead, take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.
- Work to make every conversation a “win-win” experience. Don’t lecture or try to “score points” on your teen by showing how he or she is wrong. If you show respect for your child’s viewpoint, he or she will be more likely to listen to and respect yours.
For more information and additional resources on how to talk to your teens about alcohol prevention, visit ADCTUSC.ORG