While parent-child conversations about not drinking are essential, talking isn’t enough. As kids become teens, the pressures to drink become almost constant as they wrestle with the desire to conform with what “everyone” seems to be doing. Teens need continuous help to stay alcohol-free. Research strongly shows that active, supportive involvement by parents can help teens avoid underage drinking and prevent later alcohol misuse. This support involves talking and preventing access to alcohol.
Parents are the number one influence when it comes to their teens’ decisions about alcohol. They control the availability of alcohol in the household, serve as role models of alcohol use and non-use, influence family norms on alcohol use, and set alcohol-related expectations for their children. However, even the most conscientious parents can be challenged by how easy it is for teens to get alcohol in our community.
Many parents in our community would be surprised to learn that 44% of our 12th graders and 47% of our 10th graders reported that it would be easy to get alcohol from their home without their parents’ knowledge. (2014 District 113 IYS Survey data).
Here are some tips to reduce teens opportunities to access alcohol:
*Monitor the alcohol in your home: unlocked liquor cabinets, beer in the fridge and alcohol at family events all factor into underage drinking. If you have alcohol in your home, it is your responsibility to safeguard it and make sure that teens can’t access it. Know what you have, how much you have and where it’s located–and lock it up. Regularly check your alcohol supply and be aware of tricks teens may use, such as refilling alcohol bottles with water to maintain original fluid levels.
* Never provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. It’s against the law, and it’s dangerous.
* Establish family rules about underage drinking. When parents establish clear “no-alcohol” rules and expectations, their children are less likely to begin drinking. Some possible rules to include are: leave any party where alcohol is being served or consumed, never ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking, and older siblings will not encourage younger brothers and sisters to drink and will not provide alcohol for them.
* Connect with other parents. Getting to know other parents can make it easier for you to call the parent of a teen who is having a party/get-together to be sure that a responsible adult will be present and supervising and that alcohol will not be available. You will likely discover that other parents share your concerns!
Some parents may think they are keeping teens safe by giving them a place to drink and by taking away the keys to prevent drinking and driving. However, taking away the keys does not remove all the risks. Almost 70% of all deaths associated with underage drinking are not on the roadways – they are homicides, suicides, alcohol poisonings, falls, drownings, burns, etc. Not to mention the other impacts of underage drinking, such as unplanned or unsafe sex, reckless behavior, and greater chances of having problems with alcohol later in life.
Your words and actions are powerful! Use them to help keep your teens drug and alcohol-free.
Community: The Anti-Drug (CTAD) is a collaborative coalition working to reduce substance use and abuse among youth in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Highland Park, Highwood, and Riverwoods. If you have questions, comments or want to join our efforts, please contact us via email atcommunity.theantidrug@gmail.