A recent survey on drug use and health reported that more than half of the U.S. population had consumed alcohol during the past month1. Binge drinking, defined by SAMHSA as consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours at least once during the previous month2, applied to more than a quarter of the population1. 7% of the population reported heavy drinking, described as binge drinking on at least 5 days during the last month1. More than 6% of adults suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder, along with 2.5% of youths1. Only a small percentage of these actually receive treatment1. Almost 90,000 people die every year from alcohol abuse and nearly 1/3 of driving fatalities involve drunken driving1. Alcohol abuse has a negative impact on the brain development of youths1. Alcohol abuse among college students is an especially significant problem, as it contributes to date rape, injury, assault and even death1. Clearly, alcohol abuse is a very serious problem.
Since youth are especially at risk of the negative results of alcohol abuse, the remarks below are directed towards parents and are meant to help them help their children.
It is important that parents give their children the right message about alcohol use, both in their words and in their actions. Children need to know that they can raise questions and voice their opinions to their parents without the risk of judgement or punishment. Parents should be ready with accurate information when the time comes for their children to ask their questions. If parents don’t have accurate information, this is a great opportunity for them to learn along with their children. Information is readily available at both SAMHSA.gov and NIAAA.NIH.gov which parents and children can read and discuss together. Commonly-held false beliefs include the idea that there is little risk in binge drinking almost every day and that alcohol is safe because it is less dangerous than heroin or cocaine3.
Without going overboard, parents should also be aware of where and with whom their child is spending their free time. There is an old saying: “Tell me who you run with and I’ll tell you who you are.” The point is that your peer group has a powerful impact on the choices you make, your values and your opinions. Parents should be willing to talk to their children about such things as peer pressure and help them to learn the skills they need to resist negative influences.
Setting clear guidelines and appropriate consequences will reinforce what parents teach their children. Negative consequences for breaking the rules is important, but so is positive reinforcement for making good decisions. Along with these consequences, children will benefit from learning skills and acquiring the knowledge needed to help them make good decisions for themselves. The parents’ goal is to raise children who will make good decisions for themselves without the need for consequences. In other words, parents should be able to trust that their children will make good decisions on their own.
For more information, check out SAMHSA.gov and NIAAA.NIH.gov.
Alcohol abuse is a serious problem with very serious consequences. Parents have the responsibility to help their children manage the prevalence of alcohol in our society. Parents must clearly communicate to their children that they are on their child’s side in this matter.