Getting ready to go back to school can be a time of excitement as kids look forward to being back with their friends and all the activities and opportunities that school brings. It can be a time of sadness, knowing that the freedom of summer is coming to an end. And it can be a time of anxiety, wondering, “Will I fit in? Will I make new friends? Will I like my teachers? Will I be successful?”
Just like adults, kids can experience a range of emotions regarding school. They also face a lot of pressure, whether it comes from other kids, their parents, or their own expectations of themselves. That’s why it is so important to continue to talk with your kids about alcohol.
Messaging - What do they hear?
Messages about alcohol surround youth. TV, billboards, and the internet all expose youth to messages that say alcohol use is cool, sexy, and necessary for having a good time. However, the message they really need to hear over and over again is yours.
Every year in the United States, about 5000 young people under age 21 die as a result of underage drinking (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism). Alcohol use is associated with many adolescent risk behaviors, including other drug use, delinquency, carrying a weapon, fighting, and committing or being the victim of sexual assault.
Most kids make good choices
Many young people are under the mistaken impression that “everyone else does it.” When it comes to alcohol use, that statement is simply not true. In fact, about 72 percent of 10th graders and 60 percent of 12th graders reported not using alcohol in the past 30 days (2010 WA Healthy Youth Survey). Most kids are making the healthy choice not to drink.
Understand the risks
Unfortunately, some adults fail to see the dangers and risks involved in underage drinking. They see drinking as a “rite of passage.” It’s something they did as youth, and they “turned out okay.”
Some adults will cite European customs and laws as the reason they choose to let their kids drink at a young age. This is concerning for two reasons. First, we now know the teen brain is still developing, and alcohol can have a negative impact on this development, impairing learning and memory. Also, many European countries, such as the United Kingdom, are now experiencing major health and safety problems related to teen drinking, especially binge drinking. More young people, including in the United States, are drinking to get drunk, leading to significant risks to their health and well-being.
We need to ask ourselves, is the risk to the future of our children worth it?
Use your influence
Young people have told us that their parents are the biggest influence on their decision not to drink alcohol. You have the ability to help your child understand the risks of alcohol use and make the right decision.
For tips on how to talk with your kids about alcohol, go to www.StartTalkingNow.org.