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. Adolescence is a time of heightened risk-taking and as alcohol and drugs enter the picture, parents are faced with a unique set of challenges. 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. Here’s the opportunity when parents can reinforce that using alcohol is not a ‘rite of passage.’ In fostering “changing attitudes” parents can help kids understand that drinking isn’t a way to feel or be independent, “cool,” or to fit in socially. 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.
"Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people," says Andrew Pucher, President and CEO of NCADD, "and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop and problems associated with it. That's why it is so important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs." BRiDGES Executive Director, Susan Jenkins, adds "remember, as a parent or other adult in the life of a child or teen, your own actions and decisions around the use of alcohol matter. They are watching us. Actions really do speak louder than words".