This holiday season, when party planning goes into high gear for many people, parents are being encouraged to discuss the risks of alcohol use with their teens. “Many people think about alcohol at this time and we’re hoping parents will think of the holidays as a reminder to discuss drinking and the consequences of alcohol use with their teens,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Grondel says that, ideally, parents should be in a pattern of regularly talking with their kids about the dangers of using alcohol and other drugs, setting clear rules against using, and enforcing reasonable consequences for breaking the rules.
“When young people drink alcohol this creates a number of problems,” said Michael Langer, co-chair of the Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. “Because the teen brain is still developing, using alcohol can permanently damage learning and memory. Teens who start drinking are at much greater risk for developing addiction, compared to teens who wait until they are 21,” added Langer.
Although it is illegal for minors to have alcohol, far too many are drinking. The 2012 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey revealed that 115,000 students in grades 6-12 used alcohol in the previous 30 days. Teens who drink are at higher risk for serious injuries, poor school performance, depression and suicide.
Research shows that parents have the greatest influence on their teens’ decisions about alcohol. Here are some proven ways parents can prevent their children from drinking
· Fitting in is important to teens. Let your teens know that most of their peers are making healthy choices and don’t drink or use drugs. Many teens believe that most of their classmates drink, but the opposite is true.
· Talk early and often with your child or teen about why you do not want them to use alcohol. Know who they are with, and what they are doing.
· Let your teen know that if a person “passes out” because they have had too much to drink, an ambulance should be called because death from alcohol poisoning could result. Due to Washington’s new “Good Samaritan” law, minors who call 911 to help a friend will not be prosecuted for having alcohol.
More information and tips for parents can be found online at www.StartTalkingNow.org