Alcohol Awareness Month. It’s not a right of passage.
April is upon us and that means many teens and young adults are preparing for graduations, proms, and starting new life journeys. It’s a time of excitement, reflection, and for many, celebration. For some, that also means access to alcohol. April is also National Alcohol Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, Inc. (NCADD). This year’s theme focuses on changing perspectives on alcohol use among teens and young adults, spreading the message that it is NOT a rite of passage. For decades, teens have looked at alcohol use as a symbol of freedom and adulthood. Some parent’s even encourage this behavior by allowing teen drinking for special occasions feeling, “I’d rather they do it under my watchful eye then with their friends.” This perspective is a big problem! Alcohol and drug use by young people is extremely dangerous–both to themselves and to society–and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction. Sadly, many parents often forgive underage drinking as a “rite of passage.” They can simply sit back and hope their kids will “get through it,” or they can change their attitude and take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and help their kids do the same.
It can be daunting to talk with children about drinking and drug use, but it is well worth the effort parents put into it. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use these substances than those who don’t have such conversations. Young people can learn that alcohol is not necessary for having a good time and non-use of alcohol is a healthy and viable option. We can learn to respect another person’s decision not to drink alcohol. Take the time to talk to your teen about the serious dangers of drinking alcohol. Both SAMSA and NCADD offer great resources to help navigate this crucial conversation. In fact, the NCADD offers some of the following tips.
Listen Before You Talk: As parents we want to have “all the answers.” And, sometimes we are so anxious to share our wisdom or our opinion that we don’t take the time to listen. For kids, knowing that we are really listening is the most important thing we can do to help.
Talk to Your Child and Ask Open Ended Questions: Talk to your child regularly – about their feelings, their friends, their activities – and listen to what they have to say. As much as you can, and sometimes it’s not easy, try to avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
Be Involved: Be involved in your child’s everyday world. Get to know your child’s friends and continue to educate your child about the importance of maintaining good health – psychological, emotional and physical.
Be Honest and Open: Care about what your child is going through as they face and make decisions that will affect their lives now and for the future.
Be Positive: Many parents have discovered that talking about alcohol and drugs with their children has built bridges rather than walls between them and have proudly watched those children learn to make healthy, mature decisions on their own.
As your loved one celebrates memorable endings and new beginnings, help them live their best life by giving them the facts about underage drinking. It’s not a rite of passage and it has serious consequences. We hope this information helps you so you live happy, healthy, and strong.