It’s “every parent’s nightmare” to lose a child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says that 29 people die in cars each day as a result of drinking and driving. Underage drinkers age 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of all alcohol in the U.S., with more than 90 percent of it consumed by binge drinking (drinking to excess). But whether someone underage starts drinking because of peer pressure or depression; whether they get behind the wheel while impaired and hurt themselves (or someone else); or die due to alcohol poisoning, another accident, or suicide, talking to kids about alcohol’s dangers can help avoid tragedy.
Some kids are more likely to drink heavily due to parents or friends who drink, or because of an abusive or unsupportive home life. Mom and dad don’t pay attention to their kids’ whereabouts when they should. There’s a lack of communication, with no set boundaries or parental control. Drinking triggers can also include parents divorcing, or the family moving, along with changing schools, the death of a family member, or simply getting in with the wrong crowd. Kids might start to “act out,” being aggressive, antisocial, defensive, moody, rebellious, hot tempered, or unfocused. These behaviors can also affect their grades and school attendance. Acting out can also breed experimentation with alcohol or drugs, to “feel good” or “feel nothing.” Experts have linked alcohol and drug use to unprotected sex, and more likelihood of being hurt in a violent crime, from assault to rape. Changes in brain development and memory problems from drinking may also have lifelong effects
|1. Has my child’s behavior changed in the last few days/weeks/months?||Yes ____||No ____|
|2. Is my child angry, disinterested, moody, or overtired?||Yes ____||No ____|
|3. Has my kids’ circle of friends changed, and/or does my child associate with kids that I don’t know?||Yes ____||No ____|
|4. Do I know the parents of my kids’ friends?||Yes ____||No ____|
|5. Have I found alcohol on my child’s breath or clothing? In their backpack? Or in their room/around the house/in the trash?||Yes ____||No ____|
|6. I’ve marked my calendar to talk to my child about risky drinking, and seek more help, if needed.||Yes ____||No ____|
Talk when the mood is relaxed — not in the heat of the moment, when kids are least likely to listen. Don’t try to cover everything all at once! Create building blocks of conversation over time. Discuss both immediate and long-term risks to health, self-respect, and impacting one’s future. Bring up family history. Caution them if alcoholism runs in the family. Be a good role model. If you drink, do so responsibly. Never drink and drive. Never serve alcohol to anyone underage. Share your own negative story about drinking, if you drank as a teen. Deal with peer pressure. Get them used to saying a polite “no thanks” to alcohol. Ask party hosts about available non-alcoholic drinks (or have your kids bring their own). Make sure your kids’ friend’s parents are on-site at parties! Also, know your kids friends and their parents. Get a sense of who your kids hang with, and their home lives. Dispel myths about drinking making them happy or popular. Alcohol can also cause anger or sadness. Listen to your kids and their concerns about friends, school, and fitting in.
Seek help if you need it! Your family doctor, local hospital or community center, and school system are all resources for dealing with underage drinking.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano