When the kids are home from school and the rules relax, it’s important to be sure that rules about underage alcohol consumption stay in place. During the holiday season, alcohol may be easier to access and teens may be in more unsupervised situations. This is a good reason for alcohol to be monitored and secured in every household.
Most teens and even tweens are curious about alcohol, and that’s okay. What is not okay is acting on those curiosities at a young age. It is up to the adults in their lives to help them know when it is safe to try alcohol, and that is not until their bodies and brains are ready to process it safely.
Young people start their relationship with alcohol from their very first encounter. Many parents believe that “just a sip” at home is okay, but that may not be the case. A better course of action may be using your own consumption of an adult beverage as the beginning of a conversation with your child. Remember, what you permit, you promote.
Even if your home is alcohol-free, having these conversations with your kids is important. At some point, most youth will have the opportunity to make a decision about alcohol. Wouldn’t you rather your kids have some ideas about how to handle a situation before they find themselves in it?
For parents that would like support in facilitating these kinds of valuable, if sometimes difficult conversations, a parent group, Watauga Parents for Prevention is being formed. The group plans to hold it first meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16 to discuss ways to keep children safe from the effects of underage substance abuse.
Studies show that parents are a mighty influence on kids’ decisions about alcohol. Multiple brief conversations, even with kids as young as 9, can help form a healthy attitude about drinking.
For more information contact Candis Walker, Watauga County Schools Prevention Counselor at [email protected], or follow the group on twitter @wataugaprevent.
Why is talking about underage alcohol use important?
- Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse in their lifetimes than those who begin drinking at age 21 years or later.
- Teens who drink are more likely to be sexually active and to have unsafe, unprotected sex.
- Use of alcohol greatly increases the chance that a teen will be involved in a car crash, homicide, or suicide.
- Teens who use alcohol are more likely than adults to use a lot of alcohol, frequently drinking 5 or more drinks in a single occasion.
- Youth who use alcohol on a regular basis are more likely to have poor performance in school.
- Research shows that drinking during the teen years could interfere with normal brain development and change the brain in ways that have negative effects on information processing and learning.
What can parents and caregivers do?
- Make a commitment to talk about underage drinking.
- Secure and monitor alcohol in your home.
- Set guidelines. Meet your kids’ friends and parents and communicate with them when kids will be spending time at one another’s homes.
- Prohibit underage alcohol and drug use in your home. Encourage other drug and alcohol-free events and activities.
- Be a good role model if you consume alcohol.