Authored by: Patrick Holman-Hart, Youth Leader, Matheson Jr. High
In the effort to raise healthy and productive children, there are many risks and behaviors to be aware of. One of the most pervasive problems we see affecting youth is underage drinking. It’s important to be mindful of the warning signs and what may contribute to a child’s decision to start drinking alcohol.
Stress and depression could encourage youth to seek out alcohol. These feelings may come about due to pressure at school, from friends, or from your child’s interaction with bullies. Trying alcohol may be seen as a solution to these problems, although we know that isn’t the case. Unfortunately, there are still many parents who don’t realize their children are drinking. A national survey estimates that 31% of kids who had been drunk in the previous year also had parents who were unaware of their alcohol use. And, by the time parents do talk to their children about not drinking alcohol, it may be too late.
So what can you do to prevent underage drinking and help your child succeed? The simplest answer is to be involved. That starts with talking to your kids about not drinking at a younger age. Many kids are confronted with alcohol during elementary school and it’s a habit that is being developed at a younger age than when you or your parents may have tried alcohol for the first time. Intervening at a young age is necessary.
Beyond just talking to your kids, it’s important to also listen. Because kids will experience stress or depression, they need to find a healthy way to let out their frustrations. If they know you’re there for them, they won’t feel the need to turn to something else. Having daily conversations will give you better insight into their lives and help you find ways to connect with your children.
After you’ve had these important conversations, encourage them to be active and involved. Find a hobby you can share and enjoy together. Find out if there is something at school they can be involved with, such as a club or sport. Friends are a common reason kids try alcohol, so get to know who your child is spending time with and welcome them to your home. Not only will this allows you to keep track of them, but you’re also providing a safe place that is free from the temptations of alcohol.
Using these strategies and being aware of the warning signs, the best line of defense against underage drinking will be you: the parent. For more information about underage drinking and what you can do to prevent it, visit http://parentsempowered.org.