A Guide to Alcohol Prevention
Although it is illegal in the United States for anyone under 21 to buy alcoholic beverages, alcohol is the one drug most often used by children ages 12-17. It is estimated that more than four million struggling teenagers consume alcohol in a given month. Alcohol-related car crashes are the number-one killer of teens, and alcohol is a factor in the other three leading causes of youth deaths: homicides, suicides and drowning.
Why do troubled teens drink? Most say it's because drinking makes them "feel good." It helps them forget their problems. Nearly 50% in one survey said they get drunk because they have nothing better to do.
How concerned should you be?
In our culture, across most ethnicities, alcohol is the most socially accepted substance as well as the most abused. You must be over age 21 to drink, but we all know that most teen-agers are no strangers to alcohol. Some parents may breathe a sigh of relief upon learning that their child is "only" using alcohol. "At least he's not taking drugs," they often say. But alcohol is a drug, and can be a very destructive substance. Excessive amounts of alcohol can impair judgment and provoke risky and violent behavior. An intoxicated teenager (or driver of any age) behind the wheel of a car is a lethal weapon. Researchers have also associated drinking with early sexual intercourse as well as the resulting unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. When alcohol is consumed in combination with other drugs the results can be even more devastating.
6 Ways Parents Can Help
- Set a Good Example. Your children are watching you! Be moderate in your own use of alcohol or abstain altogether, and avoid using alcohol as a way to relax or cope with problems. Don't drink under unsafe conditions such as while driving. Your child will not make safe decisions if you don't. A "do as I say, not as I do" attitude just won't cut it.
- Lay down the ground rules. It's your job to teach your child that alcohol is not an option. When parents "bargain" with kids, allowing them to drink as long as they promise not to drive, kids are actually more likely to drive after drinking or to be in a car with someone who has been drinking. Set reasonable but firm rules that you will enforce. Explain the facts about alcohol as well as your family's opinions. Make it clear that alcohol is not an option until your child is 21. And make the legal consequences and your family's rules and consequences known.
- Listen to your children. Pay attention to them and play an active role in their lives. Build their self-esteem and avoid constant criticism. Let them talk to you without interrupting them or taking issue with their point of view. Research shows that one of the best ways to prevent alcohol use and abuse is communication between parent and child.
- Talk to your children. Teach your children that actions have consequences at any age, and every choice matters. Talk to them about alcohol, and everything else! And start early. The teen-age years often bring strong feelings and emotions. Establish a strong foundation by beginning a dialogue in their pre-teen years.
- Communication with your troubled boy or troubled girl is extremely important. Keep the lines of communication open. One or two conversations about alcohol with your children is not enough. If you want them to come to you, you're going to have to get comfortable with difficult subjects. Encourage discussion on topics of concern to your teen-ager: alcohol, drugs, sex and the need for peer group acceptance.
- Don't be Naïve. Watch for signs of abuse in teens like dropping grades, switching friends, missing money, and withdrawal - to name just a few. If you sense a problem, seek help. It could save your child's life.
If Alcohol becomes too great of an issue for the family to deal with internally there are very beneficial options for your troubled teen. Zion Educational Service has family restoration experts who are dedicated in helping troubled youth get their lives back on the right track. By calling (888)- 597-9495 parents can get immediate assistance and advice regarding the right course of action for the struggling boy or struggling girl.