Part 2: Strategies for Parents to Help Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking
Lexington, SC (Dr. Pam Imm) - In a previous issue, the Dr. Pam Imm discussed the importance of preventing underage drinking to ensure health and safety of individuals, families, and communities. In this issue, she highlights some specific strategies that parents can take:
Set a good example. Remember that children learn by watching their parents. Keep the distinction between what is appropriate for teens and what is appropriate for adults clear. Do not allow children to mix cocktails, bring you a beer or sip from your wine glass. If you are wondering if you may have a problem with drinking, set a good example and seek help. Remember, we are powerful influences on our children.
Make your opinions known: Research shows that teens are less likely to use alcohol or drugs if they know their parents will disapprove. Talk to your teen about your expectations for them not to drink alcohol while underage. Discuss the consequences frequently for breaking these rules (and the law).
Be consistent: Make it clear that a no alcohol rule is in effect at all times: in your home, in a friend’s home, at a party, etc.
Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Work with other parents to uphold a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drugs in the home and agree to contact one another if you become aware that a youth has violated this. While it might feel “awkward” at first to do this, most parents will easily agree. When your teen wants to go to a party, call the parent and make sure there will be no alcohol or drugs (and that they will be home during the party).
Give your child a way out: Discuss in advance how to contact you or another adult for a ride home if alcohol or drugs are being used as a party or if your teen needs a ride home for any reason. Some parents and teens preplan for this and the teen will text a “codeword” to the parent letting them know to call them and pick them up.
Don’t be naïve: Watch for signs of use such as dropping grades, a sudden change in friends or missing money. If you suspect a problem, seek professional help. MADD has a variety of resources (including free programs) for youth and parents (803-397-4514). The Courage Center in Lexington SC is a free recovery support organization for youth who are dealing with alcohol and drug use (age 15-26 years). Programs for family members are also provided at no charge (www.couragecentersc.org). Treatment options are also available at LRADAC, 803-726-9400 for the office in Lexington on South Lake Drive.