April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Every April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has chosen a different theme to raise public awareness and understanding. NCADD’s theme for April 2018 is “Changing Attitudes: It’s not a ‘rite of passage.’”
It is a part of your role as a parent to help your teens understand that drinking doesn’t have to be a rite of passage. It’s not a way to feel or be independent, to appear cool or to fit in socially. Alcohol is not necessary to have a good time. Choosing to not drink alcohol is a healthy and viable option and we can all learn to respect another person’s decision not to drink alcohol.
If you think your child is drinking just to have a good time, we encourage you to think again. Many kids drink because of social pressure, or to feel comfortable with their friends. Other kids may drink alone because they are bored, depressed or they are trying to cope with stress. This puts them at greater risk for developing alcohol-related problems later in life.
Talk to your kids and take an active role in teaching them about the dangers of alcohol use. It’s always worth it. The following facts from the CDC highlight some of the reasons why it is important to have a conversation with your teen about underage drinking.
• On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
• In the past 30 days, approximately 33% of high school students drank alcohol.
• Youth who start drinking before age 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later on life than those that wait to begin drinking at or after age 21.
• People aged 12 to 20 years consume 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States annually.
• Underage drinking is not only illegal, but it also makes youth more susceptible to social, legal and physical problems.
You can help your teen stay safe and sober by setting a good example for them. Follow these six simple tips from the NCADD to help your teen develop healthy attitudes about alcohol use.
Teach your child that abstinence from alcohol is an acceptable lifelong decision and that they have a right to stand up for a safe and healthy environment.
Teach your child that drinking and especially binge drinking can be risky and to intervene when they see that their classmates or friends are in trouble.
If your child is of legal age to drink (21 in all states), explain to them how to use alcohol moderately and appropriately (as a complement to a meal and at social gatherings or during family celebrations).
If you drink, be sure to set an ongoing healthy example regarding adult alcohol use and never brag about your use of alcohol or other drugs during your own high school or college years.
When helping your children to select an appropriate college, be willing to question officials about campus alcohol policies. The Best Colleges, an annual guide published by the Princeton Review, categorizes schools based of descriptions such as ‘lots of beer,’ lots of hard liquor’ or ‘major frat and sorority scene.’
When your children go to college or enter into the work force, set clear and realistic expectations regarding academic and professional performance. Continue to be as interested and involved in their lives as you were when they were in high school.