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Talk with Your Child about Underage Alcohol Use

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Parents' disapproval of underage alcohol use has been identified as one of the key reasons youth choose NOT to drink. As a parent, you are in a position of tremendous influence. What you do and say every day can affect your child's attitude about underage alcohol use.

A fifth grader is trying on new clothes, new friends, and new behaviors. Many parents feel that their 10 and 11-year-old child is too young to discuss underage alcohol use. However, children may already have access to alcohol and may have been faced with making decisions for which he or she is not yet prepared. One study shows that one-third of fourth graders and more than half of sixth graders reported that friends had pressured them to drink alcohol.


*Most children and youth do not drink alcohol. In fact, nearly 60% of youth ages 12-17 have never had a drink.
*Individuals who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or problems with alcohol abuse at some time in their lives.
*In a recent national survey, 71% of eighth graders said alcohol was "fairly easy" or "very easy" to get.
*It takes less alcohol to damage a young brain than a mature one, and the young brain is damaged more quickly.

You can take some steps to lessen the likelihood that your child will engage in underage alcohol use:

*Discuss family rules about the use of alcohol. This may include a discussion of alcohol used in religious observances.
*Make it clear that alcohol use before age 21 is unacceptable and against the law.
*Follow the federal recommendations that adults who drink should limit alcohol consumption to 1-2 drinks per day; remember that drinking and driving don't mix and that the same goes for alcohol and prescription medicine.
*Monitor the alcohol kept in your home.
*Consider not serving alcohol to other adults at child-focused events, such as graduations or birthday parties.
*Think carefully about what to tell children when they ask whether you used alcohol as a teen. If you did, share some of the lessons you have learned from that experience. Be clear in explaining why underage alcohol use was not a good idea then, and that it is not a good idea now.
*If you or a family member is in recovery, now is the time to talk with your child about the disease of alcoholism.

TRUE-FALSE QUIZ: Read each statement aloud, then discuss the answers given. Use this as an opportunity to explain your family's rules about underage alcohol use.

1. Alcohol slows down your body and mind. (True-it is a depressant; it leaves you unable to think, react, and make decisions as you normally would.)
2. Alcohol affects everyone in the same ways. (False-the effects depend on a person's age, gender, body weight, and hereditary factors; people can also be affected by the time of day, how much they've eaten, how tired they are and other factors.)
3. You feel alcohol's effects right away. (True-it is absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly, within 5-10 minutes; it passes from your stomach directly into your bloodstream and affects every organ.)
4. Beer and wine coolers are not as harmful as other forms of alcohol. (False-there is about the same amount of alcohol in a 12-oz. can of beer as there is in a mixed drink that contains 1.5 oz. of hard liquor, a 5-oz. glass of wine or a wine cooler.)
5. Some of the signs that a person has a problem with alcohol are: believing that alcohol is necessary to have fun; lying about how much alcohol he or she is using; forgetting what happened while drinking; and getting drunk on a regular basis. (True-you can help by encouraging the person to stop drinking and to seek professional help.)


Here are six actions you can take to help your child make wise decisions about alcohol use:

*Establish and maintain good communication with your child.
*Get involved, and stay involved, in your child's life.
*Make clear rules and enforce them with consistency and appropriate consequences.
*Be a positive role model.
*Teach your child to choose friends wisely.
*Monitor your child's activities.

Visit www.samhsa.gov for more information on this resource.

(Source: Family Resource Guide, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)


Talk with Your Child about Underage Alcohol Use

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