With the average age of first alcohol use in the U.S. now reported to be 12, it’s not too early to start talking to your young teen about making smart decisions when it comes to drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, and drinking and driving. Drinking and driving? But he’s only in eighth grade you say? But what is he going to do if his ride home from practice has been drinking?
Will he know how to handle the situation? What if her boyfriend has a driver’s license? What’s she going to do if he’s been drinking? These are real life scenarios that are worth discussing with your child. The California Highway Patrol’s RIGHT TURN Middle School Program has some tips for parents, including tips on alcohol prevention strategies, talking to your teen, and ways to help them say “no.”
Alcohol-related traffic collisions are a major cause of death among teens. Alcohol often contributes to drowning, suicide, and homicide among young people.
Teens who use alcohol are more likely to become sexually active at earlier ages, to have sexual intercourse more often, and to have unprotected sex than teens who do not drink.
Young people who drink are more likely than others to be victims of violent crime, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery.
Teens who drink are more likely to have problems with school work and school conduct.
A young person dies in a traffic crash due to drinking/drug use and driving once an hour on weekends and once every two hours on weekdays.
Young males account for 77 percent of alcohol-related youth fatalities.
An individual who begins drinking as a young teen is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to use alcohol.
Develop family rules about drinking. When parents establish clear “no alcohol” rules and expectations, their children are less likely to begin drinking (example – kids will not stay at teen parties where alcohol is served and kids will not ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking).
Monitor alcohol use in your home. Keep an eye on what you have around and be mindful if you notice alcohol missing.
Connect with other parents. Getting to know other parents can help you keep closer tabs on your child.
Set a good example – use alcohol moderately, show by your actions that alcohol is not a good way to handle problems, never drink and drive or ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking, don’t tell your kids stories about your own drinking in a way that conveys the message that alcohol use is funny or glamorous.
Don’t support teen drinking in any way, shape, or form.
Help your child build healthy friendships (i.e. If your child’s friends use alcohol, your child is more likely to drink too).
Keep your child busy and focused – one reason kids often cite for drinking is boredom.
Check out www.safecarservices.com – a safe-ride home program.
Parents can enroll and prepay for a ride home. Your child then calls and a local taxi is sent anytime anywhere.
Keep track of your child’s activities. Be aware of your teen’s plans and whereabouts.
No thanks, I have another ride (then call a parent or another trusted adult for a ride).
I think I’m going to spend the night (then call a parent to alert them of
I think I’m going to walk (ONLY if it’s an area that your normally walk and are familiar with, it’s during daylight, AND you have a buddy with you).
There’s no way I’m riding with you.
Adapted from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism “Making a Difference – Talk to Your Child About Alcohol” and from the National Academies of Science Report, “Reducing Underaged Drinking A Collective Responsibility.”