Teens and Alcohol: A Lethal Combination
The Facts About Alcohol
Brought to you by National PTA
"Most parents aren't teaching their kids anything about alcohol, especially not that alcohol
in large quantities has many dangerous effects," according to Henry Wechsler, director of college alcohol studies at the Harvard School of Public Health. "Too many kids think that as long as they don't drive,
it is okay to get drunk." Children and teens need to know and understand the basic facts about alcohol:
Alcohol is a drug. Specifically, alcohol is a depressant.
Alcohol slows body functions, coordination, and the ability to think and react.
Alcohol affects everyone differently, and body weight and the amount of alcohol consumed over time are the two determining factors.
Alcohol affects judgment and lowers inhibitions. Teens who are drinking or drunk do things they would not ordinarily do. Behaviors range from becoming upset emotionally, fighting, using other drugs, participating in unplanned sexual activity (including unsafe sex), to drinking and driving.
Drinking very large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time (binge drinking) could cause sudden death from alcohol poisoning, which stops oxygen to the brain.
Young people also should know if there is a history of alcoholism in their family. Many, many young lives would be saved the slow death of alcoholism or the pain of recovery by knowing at an early age that alcohol may not be something they can handle, even in small amounts, because of a genetic risk in their family.
Helping Teens Say No
Parents can help prevent underage alcohol use by sending a strong message at home. Here are some suggestions:
Discuss expectations with your children. Then work with them to meet those expectations.
Keep communication open about alcohol use. If you overreact to bad news associated with alcohol use by
teens in your community, you are likely not to get a full story when you bring up the issue the next time.
Help your children develop a strong sense of self-esteem, along with the social skills necessary to
withstand peer pressure to drink. Let them know they are loved and valued.
Plan and spend time with your children on a daily basis. They need to see how the rules you have set
work with the experiences they have outside of the home, at school, or with friends.
Let them know that you are aware of alcohol use in the school community, that they may be encouraged
by their peers to drink alcohol, and that they'll have opportunities to drink.
Make an alcohol-free pact with your children through high school and college. Constantly remind
them about the dangers of alcohol, including the possible lethal effect of binge drinking, and suggest other ways
of dealing with stress and emotional problems.
Suggest ways to refuse participating in parties or social gatherings where alcohol
will be served. In most cases, this means putting yourself in the role of the heavy. Tell your teen simply
to say, "I made a deal with my parents not to drink." If the pressure persists, he or she can follow up with,
"Don't you get it? A deal's a deal, and I'm keeping my end of the bargain."
Set consequences for your children's actions. Do not allow them to think they are "getting away"
with behavior that's unacceptable to the family.
Adults who expect their teens not to drink alcohol have to be willing to listen to them talk about the
pressures to drink. The more your teen is willing to talk with you about alcohol, the better the chances that he or she will not drink.
Above all, parents should set a good example, so that means analyzing your drinking habits and adjusting those
habits to be consistent with the message you're sending your teen. Be moderate or abstain in your use of alcohol.
Source: National PTA's