Despite what you may hear in the news, alcohol is the most widely used substance in the country.
And, it is also the among most widely used substance among America's teens and young adults, posing substantial health and safety risks. Believe it or not, the average age for a first drink is 14.
Teens try alcohol for a variety of reasons – to exert independence, escape from stress, peer pressure, rebellion and even boredom – but they tend to do so without fully recognizing alcohol's negative effects or health risks.
As a parent, you hold tremendous influence over whether your child decides to drink or not. Be informed and be clear that you disapprove of underage drinking, model health behavior and find opportunities to discuss the dangers of alcohol.
Most underage drinking – 90 percent of it – is in the form of binge drinking. People ages 12-20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. Although young people drink less often than adults do, when they do drink, they drink more, exponentially increasing risks to health and safety.
Drinking impairs judgment and can lead to poor decisions about engaging in risky behaviors that put one's self and others at risk.
Other important risk factors to consider, and to help your son or daughter understand:
And by the way, if you choose to drink, model responsible drinking behavior. A child with a parent who binge drinks is much more likely to binge drink than a child whose parents do not. Try to avoid sending any unintended messages — find ways to celebrate and relax without alcohol. So here are some additional pointers:
Remember, productive communication with your teen or young adult doesn't always have to feel like you're giving them the third degree. Remain calm, relax and follow the tips below to ensure that your child hears what you have to say — and visa versa.
You need to try to be objective and open. If you want to have a productive conversation with your child, do your best to keep an open mind and remain curious. Your child is more likely to be receptive this way. And, let your teen know they're being heard. Use active listening and reflect back what you are hearing — either verbatim, or just the sentiment.
And, remind your child that you are there for support and guidance – and that it's important to you that she or he is healthy and happy and makes safe choices.Finally, on behalf of the Board of Trustees and staff at Wellspring Center for Prevention, our best wishes for a warm and happy Holiday Season!