School’s out for summer and keeping tabs on your teen just got a lot harder.
Adolescence in and of itself comes with a greater likelihood of alcohol use, but there are some factors that increase the risk of a teen abusing alcohol. One of the best ways to help teens avoid this behavior is to equip parents with knowledge of the issue and specific methods to protect and educate their teens.
Everybody Is Doing It
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, underage drinking accounts for over 4,300 underage deaths annually. It is also a factor in over 189,000 emergency rooms visits by people under age 21 for injuries and other conditions. This is a real issue facing real teenagers in every social circle. Surveys indicate that underage drinking is an issue among all races and socio economic levels. Simply put, your zip code and family history does not doom you or shield you from the dangers of underage alcohol use. Pretending the issue doesn’t exist, or thinking your child would never make such a reckless choice, is a recipe for disaster.
Kids Will Be Kids
Kids are curious and social and like any human, want to be liked and accepted. Curiosity is not a bad thing. Being social is not a bad thing. However, these are definitely factors in why so many young people choose to partake in alcoholic beverages before reaching the legal age to do so. Yes, kids will be kids. Parents and guardians just need to know that part of being a kid is exactly what makes one more likely to drink, which leads to a number of other dangerous behaviors and situations. Knowing that kids will be kids, parents must be parents. Set boundaries. Keep an open dialogue and be willing to provide alternate activities for your teen and their friends.
Keep Talking. Keep Listening.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol. Brief but frequent conversations about alcohol can make a significant impact on your teen’s ability to resist peer pressure. Keeping an open dialogue also creates a safe and more comfortable environment for your teen to ask questions or express concerns about the issue. As much as you speak with your teen about alcohol use and abuse, be sure to listen. Give them opportunities to open up about their own opinions regarding alcohol and other substance abuse. Allowing them a safe place to speak increases their likelihood to “just say no.”
Draw A Line in the Sand
In the midst of worrying and talking and listening, be sure to make your viewpoint clear. Make sure your teen knows that underage drinking is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in your home. Set reasonable but firm expectations. Keep your message consistent and set consequences ahead of time. Being honest up front sets the stage for other “real” conversations. Be a parent first, friend second.
The statistics are startling and can easily make parents want to bury their heads in the sand. Resist the temptation to flee. No matter what challenges your child is facing, talking to them can literally make the biggest difference. Face the issue head on and know that you can be the driving force in keeping your teen from using alcohol.