Almost half of all 10th graders consume alcohol. Teen alcohol use takes the lives of close to 5,000 people each year, which is more than all illegal drugs combined. One in six teens binge drink, but few parents believe it happens to their children. Teens die more from car crashes than anything else. About a quarter of those involve drinking.
These are all statistics from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Each one should motivate you to talk with your children about the dangers of underage drinking and set clear rules in your household to prevent it from happening. By doing so, you play a vital role in your children's future. According to the Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), children who begin to drink at age 13 have a 38 percent higher chance of becoming alcoholics later in life.
Here are six ways to help thwart your teens from drinking:
1. Keep open lines of communication
When your children get home from school, don't let them walk immediately to their bedroom without a word. Ask them how their day was or what they learned in school. Investing in their lives will help them become more comfortable with sharing their feelings, which will help you discuss difficult topics like alcohol consumption.
2. Encourage after-school activity
According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, there are a number of reasons why children try alcohol. A few include, "other people," "boredom" and "lack of confidence." Your children's friends play an important role in whether your child drinks and how they handle situations when alcohol is present.
While it may seem difficult to control who your children hang out with, you can encourage them to hang out with the right groups by enrolling them in after school sports and activities. This will also keep them from drinking alcohol to surmount boredom or boost their self confidence — instead they'll be getting it from their extracurricular.
3. Help them understand what alcohol can do
As a parent your job is to both enforce and teach. Teach them how alcohol can negatively affect their body. Here are a few ways excessive drinking plays a part in poor health:
- It interfers with and disrupts the brain's communication pathways
- Can damage the heart by causing high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmias and cardiomyopathy
- May cause liver inflammations
- Could cause pancreatitis, which is a dangerous inflammation of the blood vessels
- Increases chance people are diagnosed with cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast
4. Don't be the "good guy or gal"
Remember the first thing you are to your children is their parent. While friends may have no problem drinking together, your job isn't to provide children with easy access to alcohol. It's to ensure they take up other activities other than drinking and avoid situations that involve consuming alcohol.
5. Establish rules
When parents establish rules and are willing to tell their children "no," the latter are more likely to deny drinking. It's best to set clear rules from the day children are able to walk and talk. However, if you're a little late to the party, you can still institute a strong tone in your household.
Let them know specifically what you'll be monitoring and be steadfast in your approach to uphold rules. Then, if they're broken, swiftly take action and don't back down.
6. Form a group with other parents
According to a survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia, half of teens who attend parties say alcohol is present. The same study reveals that 80 percent of parents believe their teens attend substance-free parties. You can see the discrepancy here and it's up to the parents to fix it.
By the time your child is a teenager, there's a good chance you've met their friend's parents. Don't just keep the lines of communication open between you and your child. Keep in touch with other parents too. Talk to them regularly about your concerns and ways of keeping kids safe. Even form a group where parents around the neighborhood gather together once or twice a month to educate each other on alcohol, alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Monitor each other kid's to ensure there is no underage drinking.
Fairwinds Treatment Center, a dual diagnosis treatment center located in Clearwater, Florida, has over 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating alcohol-related problems. Under the leadership of Dr. M.K (Khal) El-Yousef, Fairwinds has grown into one of the country's leading centers in using dual diagnosis as a technique to treat individuals with addictive behaviors.
In using this approach, El-Yousef and his staff of full-time psychiatrists, nursing professionals and licensed therapists work to first understood the root of disease and then treat it using therapeutic counseling and clinical practices.