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'Tis The Season To Talk With Your Kids About Drinking And Drugs (With Poll)

Other tips include lock your liquor cabinet, make sure prescription drugs are safely stored, check with the parents of your teen's friends before parties, be a good role model.

 

The holidays can provide happiness and excitement as friends and family come together for celebrations.  Yet, celebrations also provide increased opportunity for teens to experiment with alcohol as it becomes more accessible during the holiday period.

"It's important for parents to take time during the holiday season to talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use, and to remain vigilant,"  said Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen, in a prepared release. "Parents are still the strongest influencers in their children's lives, even during the teenage years, and we want to ensure that our most precious resource-our young people-stay safe this holiday season."

According to The Governor's Prevention Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and safety of the state's young people, teens who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol at home are 50 percent less likely to use substances.

The Partnership reminds parents that underage drinking and drug use lead to negative and sometimes tragic consequences that can be avoided.  To help ensure that the holidays are safe and enjoyable, The Partnership is offering parents "tips for keeping teenagers healthy and safe this holiday season."

The Statistics

"Unfortunately, children don't always recognize the risks involved with underage drinking and drug use," said Jill Spineti, President and CEO of The Governor's Prevention Partnership. "In fact, the most recent Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) found that 45 percent of teens reported they viewed 'heavy daily drinking' as no big deal."

"The fact is that across the nation approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die each year as a result of underage drinking, including motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning, and unintentional injuries," said Spineti. "The risks are real, and we encourage parents to serve as the first line of defense by educating their teenagers about why underage drinking and drug use is so dangerous."

Help for Parents

The Partnership offers a downloadable "Parent's Guide to Preventing Underage Drinking" (to access, visit www.preventionworksct.org/parentguide), and also offers these tips for parents:

Make Time To Talk.

While the holiday season is a time for young people to reunite and hang out with old friends, it is also a time to connect with family. Make the time to talk to your teen about the risks of underage drinking and drug use, while encouraging him or her to balance time between family and friends.

Don't relax your rules just because it's the holiday season. 

Teens still need limits and close monitoring. Expectations such as curfews may need to be re-negotiated or reiterated for college students returning home.  Remind your teen of your expectations that he or she does not drink or experiment with drugs.

Ensure alcohol or other substances won't be available at parties your teen attends.

Check in with the parents of your teen's friends, even though this may be unpopular with your son or daughter. Also, be available to provide a ride home if something unexpected happens.

Be sure that teens don't have access to alcohol or other substances in your own home.

If you leave home for a night of celebration or are busy hosting your own holiday party, unsupervised teens may be tempted to get into your liquor cabinets. Be sure to lock up your liquor cabinet. It is also important to set expectations for having friends over while you're away. If you host adult parties in your own home, make sure you or another adult is monitoring the situation keeping an eye on both the alcohol and teens at the party.

Don't forget that the liquor cabinet isn't the only cabinet that must be secured

On an average day, 2,500 teenagers will try prescription medications. This is due in large parts to the fact that they are so accessible in kitchen drawers and bathroom cabinets. It is important to take the time to make sure that all of your medications and prescriptions are secured.

Finally, be a good role model.  Show your kids that you know your own limits, always designate a driver and never let someone drive away from your home intoxicated.

This information was provided by The Governor's Prevention Partnership, a statewide non-profit public-private alliance.

jeff December 02, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Thank you for bringing this to light. There's a little misstatement in this article. The figure I believe you are quoting from SAMHSA government data is that 2,500 teens try prescriptions for the first time every day. Meaning the same 2,500 kids are not using day after day. Today 2,500 new teens will experiment with prescriptions, particularly opiates. Adolescent users tell Myteensavers counselors that they heard the anti-drug message in schools growing up, but the message is not reinforced by parents. These tips of locking up alcohol and medicines are excellent. Medications should also be properly disposed of (not thrown in trash or flushed down toilet), when they are expired, or no longer needed by the patient. Parents need to take a more proactive role by having frequent anti-drug and alcohol conversations with their children. These kids trying pills are as young as 8-years-old. And parents who think they can detect their teen on drugs are very naive. You typically cannot see the signs in your child, until they have a dependency or addiction to these pills. Opiate users will also become heroin users, because once the pills run dry, the price tag for them is much higher than heroin. Home drug testing is also a good way to detect drugs. There's no such thing as a harmless drug. You can pick a test up at your Walgreens or neighborhood drug chain or online.
Pem McNerney (Editor) December 02, 2011 at 04:17 PM
Thanks Jeff!
Sharon Peters December 02, 2011 at 10:30 PM
I believe the best way to watch over your kids during the holidays is to have a holiday party at the house. That way they can drink and don't have to drive home
Lisa Frederiksen December 03, 2011 at 05:02 PM
These are great suggestions! Two approaches that I am having success with when having these kinds of discussions with children, teens and parents are: 1) raising awareness early on in a child's life about the five key risk factors for developing alcohol dependence, thus something to prevent, treat and/or avoid early on, and 2) raising awareness about the 21st century brain and addiction-related research to better understand why the teen brain is not the same as that of an adult's and therefore why the teen brain is affected differently by binge drinking than the brain of an adult’s. With regards to the risk factors, it is important for all concerned to understand and then do what they can to prevent, treat, and/or discuss during childhood four of the five key risk factors for developing a dependence on alcohol, namely: social environment, childhood trauma (verbal, physical and/or emotional abuse), mental illness (NAMIMass tweeted, "50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, 75% by age 24," for ex.), and genetics. The fifth key risk factor is early use, thus long before a child considers having their first drink, the other four may already be in place. With regards to early use, this article, “How Teens Become Alcoholics Before Age 21,” http://tiny.cc/pyesf, helps to explain this relatively new brain research and why alcohol is harmful to the teen brain in a way it is not necessarily harmful to the adult brain.
barb December 03, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Great info from both Lisa and Jeff, it supports what I know from experience that parental involvement and the sharing of important info with our children can have positive results in not only curbing underage drinking and it's harmful effects but also in the overall healthy development of our youth, thanks for sharing.
Pem McNerney (Editor) December 03, 2011 at 08:56 PM
Very useful information, looking forward to checking out the article. Thanks!

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