Teenage drinking and subsequently drunk driving is not, and will never be, an acceptable rite of passage. Everyday we hear about teens being injured- some fatally- because of a car accidents contributed to by alcohol use. Teen drinking should not be excused or ignored, as it will only contribute to compounded issues, including the potential for tragedy. December is Impaired Driving Prevention Month, and this extends to teens, too.
- Every day in this country almost 4800 children under the age of 16 have their first alcoholic beverage.
- Underage drinkers, incredibly, account for 11% of total alcohol consumption annually in the United States.
- Teenagers who begin drinking under the age of 15, are five times more likely to become dependent and abuse alcohol than those who begin drinking at 21 years of age or later.
There are ways to prevent alcohol abuse and it begins with parental intervention. As with any aspect of your children's lives you are their role model and their biggest advocate.
- Lead by example. This is not to say that you cannot drink. You, as an adult may like a glass of wine or something stronger occasionally and that's perfectly fine. This teaches moderation and temperance. But never, ever, drive when you have had a drink. This action teaches in a negative way. If you are a two partner family, then one should be the designated driver, if not, and you are going out for the night, don't drink, or make arrangements to spend the night.
- Talk to your child. Conversation begins early. One big conversation is not enough to impress your ideals on your child. Explain in a way a nine year old would understand and then again when 10 and 11 and so forth. Remember to listen when having these conversations and answer questions honestly. They also need to understand any alcohol in your home is off-limits. While no teen wants to hear rules about what they can and can't do, setting and enforcing boundaries will help your teen develop into a well-rounded adult.
- Communication goes both ways. Let them ask why and provide thoughtful answers highlighting long-term effects and safety.
- You are building trust and making your rules and expectations known. Let them know, that if they are ever in a bad situation they can call you for help. Better to be disturbed in the middle of the night by a child needing a ride, than the police bringing bad news.
This open line of communication will have unexpected results in every aspect of your child's life, enhancing a stronger bond that you would ever have believed possible.