Want to keep your teenager from drinking?

Published 10:00 am Thursday, June 17, 2010

Here are tips for parents to deter underage drinking this summer. Tips are adapted from the Washington Regional Alcohol Program website: www.wrap.org)

1. Know the facts. Underage drinking can lead to substantial harm including traffic crashes, violent crime, property crime, unintentional injury and at-risk sex. Learn about the risks of underage drinking and help your child avoid these consequences. Base your information on real facts, not fears.

2. Talk with your teen. Studies time and time again have confirmed that parents can have a significant — if not most significant — impact as to whether their teens will engage in risky behaviors including the use of alcohol. Talk openly to your teen about alcohol. Create clear family rules and expectations by setting a “no alcohol” rule and supporting such an environment with “zero-tolerance” consequences if such rules are broken. Teens who think their parents approve of their unlawful drinking are more likely to drink and get drunk than teens who believe their parents oppose their drinking according to a 2009 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

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3. Provide structure. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse also found that teen children of “absentee parents” were four-times more likely to abuse substances than children in highly structured homes.” Give your child the opportunity to share his or her day’s experiences with you at dinner time. By simply having dinner together with your kids you can empower them to resist alcohol use. In addition, find a responsible adult, neighbor, relative or friend who can look in on your child or share the responsibility for creating activities for your children. The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign suggests you give your teens tasks (cooking dinner, doing chores, etc.) and make sure these tasks get done.

4. Host a party. Host a teen party in your own home following clearly stated guidelines of no drugs or alcohol including: not serving beverages in easily tampered cups but in cans or bottles; asking another parent to help chaperone; when a guest leaves, do not allow them to return; make your presence known; and if you suspect that a guest has used alcohol or drugs, contact their parents immediately.

5. Foster self confidence. Instill self-confidence in your teen by talking with them about peer pressure. At some point, your teen will be offered alcohol. As the National Institutes of Health points out, “teens say they prefer quick ‘one-liners’ that allow them to dodge a drink without making a big scene.” In addition, encourage and praise your teen for the good things they do. Participate in their lives and know what they’re doing and with whom.

6. Lay down the law. Remind your teenager and their friends that it is illegal to drink alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Sometimes we forget this: That among all the other reasons teens should not drink, parents need to reiterate that it is against the law.

7. Ensure safety. Even if you have every confidence in the world that your teen won’t drink alcohol, if he or she is out with someone who has made the mistake of illegally drinking, don’t compound it by either making a second mistake of having him or her drive under the influence or ride with an impaired driver. Ensure trust in your child and assure them that you will be there to pick him or her up if their friends are drinking.

8. Beware of your civil liability. It is unlawful for parents to allow their children’s friends to consume alcohol in their home. If these same “friends” are later involved in a crash, the providing parents may be responsible for injuries, property damages and wrongful death. These same parents may also face criminal charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

9. Be a role model. Parents, themselves, should be good role models by making sure their behavior is appropriate. Use alcohol moderately, serve as a responsible host and never drink and drive.

10. Be a safe boater and talk to your teens about doing the same. Don’t overlook area waterways as another venue where advanced planning and safety is paramount as 50-percent of all boating deaths are alcohol-related, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. It also says that alcohol can be even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment’s motion, vibration, engine noise, sun and wind can accelerate a drinker’s impairment.

Alice Englin is the coalition director for Freeborn County Partners In Prevention, working to reduce substance use and abuse among youth in Freeborn County.