By: Jennifer Husmann, Certified Prevention Specialist
April is Alcohol Awareness Month and this year’s theme of Alcohol Awareness Month is “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.”
Parents play an important role in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol and other drugs can have on their lives. Kids really do care about what their parents think. The numbers of kids who “believe their parents think it is wrong for them to drink” has gone up steadily over recent years, and at the same time the numbers of kids drinking have gone down. This is great news. Research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use alcohol and drugs.
Parents may wonder what they should say about underage drinking and when they should say it. It is never too early to start talking to kids about these issues in an age appropriate way. Parents can encourage healthy and responsible attitudes early. Parents know their child’s maturity and their family situation best. Open communication includes showing children that what they have to say is valued. It’s vital to take advantage of teachable moments when these issues come up on TV or on the radio. Parents can clearly state that they do not want their children drinking alcohol or using drugs and that they trust them not to. It’s important to talk about possible consequences of alcohol use, legal and medical, and what will happen if family rules are broken. If there is a family history of addiction to alcohol, parents should talk about the genetic risks just as they would any other chronic disease such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Encouragement to develop positive interests and supportive friendships are great ways to prevent underage drinking as well.
It’s important that parents also have the community supporting them and their children by working to prevent underage drinking together. To learn more about what parents and others in the community can do, visit www.SAMSHA.gov/underage-drinking.
ASAC’s prevention is busy this time of year supporting Town Hall Meetings on Underage Drinking and initiatives around proms, graduations and upcoming community events. Check out ASAC’s website or Facebook page for upcoming events in your area!