How to Prevent Underage Drinking
Underage drinking is a common problem in the United States that can take a toll on teen’s school performance, overall health and even their emotional well being. The NIH found a strong link between underage drinking and behavioral problems, delinquency and issues with law enforcement as well, making it even more critical for parents to take action against it. Fortunately, there are steps that parents, guardians or other adults can take to help teens find healthier outlets and avoid engaging in underage drinking altogether.
Communication truly is the key to helping a teen avoid or overcome underage drinking. While this topic may be difficult to address, it is worth it to help young people stay informed. Parents are encouraged to talk about the risks associated with drinking with their teenage children and discuss the consequences it can have on their health. Adults should also remain a neutral and supportive source for the at risk teen. This way, he or she will be more likely to reach out for help or advice instead of engaging in drinking.
Parents of teens should always be involved in their social life, to an extent. It is appropriate for parents to meet their child’s friends and the parents before allowing them to spend time alone at their house. They should also be informed of any upcoming outings or events that their child wants to participate in such as concerts, parties or day trips. Teens do not always make the best decisions when it comes to friends and outings, which is why parents should stay involved so they can step in if needed to avoid dangerous situations. For example, a parent may decide to not allow their child to stay at a friend’s house unsupervised where alcohol is within reach. Alternatively, parents may offer to allow their teen’s friends to come over to their own home.
Quality Family Time
Families that spend more quality time together are less likely to suffer with substance use disorders or behavioral problems. Parents should try to maintain regular family events. This can be as simple as hosting a movie night or going on a day trip each weekend. During family time, all members should be encouraged to share their feelings and talk about any issues they may be experiencing at school or within their social circle. This is a great way for parents to practice their communication skills with their teenage children.
Children who participate in after school programs such as sports, crafts or other classes are more likely to make better decisions when it comes to substance abuse. While it is best to get kids involved in a hobby or sport early on in life, it is never to late to develop new skills. Parents can talk to their teenager about their interests and help them find a class or program that suits their interests. Many community colleges offer summer time classes at a low cost to teens. This can help to keep them busy during their break from school and less likely to engage in underage drinking.
Youth leadership groups such as those offered in schools, church and after school programs offer an excellent source of moral support to teens. Leaders can also serve as role models to teenagers and help them develop skills that will serve them throughout their entire life, such as how to resist peer pressure, make better decisions and stay true to themselves and their goals. As an added benefit, youth leadership groups allow teens to socialize in a healthy setting and with like minded peers. This is an excellent way for them to make better friends that are less likely to engage in or pressure others to drink or abuse other substances.
Offer a Way Out
Another useful tool that parents or adults in general can use to help teens avoid dangerous situations where drinking is involved is to offer them a safe way out of difficult situations. Many parents establish a code word or phrase with their teenage children that they can use via text or phone call when they need a ride or help from an adult. This is a great way to encourage teens to make better choices without fear of getting in trouble or being judged. Another option is to install tracking software on a teen’s smartphone or tablet. Parents can use this handy feature to keep track of their child’s whereabouts so they can step in if needed.
Underage alcohol abuse is a public health crisis that can lead to other substance abuse problems later in life. Drinking can take a toll on teen’s ability to perform their best in school and can even hurt their relationship with their family. However, these strategies are both practical and doable for parents or adults in general to incorporate.