Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of violent crime, to be involved in alcohol related traffic crashes, and to have serious school related problems. You have more influence on your child’s values and decisions about drinking before they begin to use alcohol. Parents can have a major impact on their children’s drinking, especially during the preteen and early teen years. According to the 2010 Iowa Youth Survey:
One in four eighth graders reports drinking alcohol within the past month.
24% of eighth graders reports that during the last 30 days they have had 5 or more drinks of alcohol in a row on at least one occasion.
49% of eighth graders say that it is easy to get alcohol in Van Buren County.
Prevention Strategies for Parents
• If you keep alcohol in your home, keep track of it. Make sure your child knows that they are not allowed to have unchaperoned parties/gatherings at home, but encourage them to have friends over when you are home! The more entertaining your child does in your home, the more you will know about your child’s friends and activities.
• Getting to know other parents and guardians can help you keep closer tabs on your child. This will make it is easier for you to call another parent who is having a party to be sure that responsible adult will be present and the alcohol will not be available.
• Be aware of your teen’s plans and whereabouts and make sure they know it is because you care about them not because you do not trust them.
• When parents establish clear “no alcohol” rules, their children are less likely to begin drinking. Some possible family rules are:
Kids will not drink alcohol until they are 21
Older siblings will not encourage younger ones to drink and will not give them alcohol.
Kids will not stay at teen parties where alcohol is served
Kids will not ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking
• Once the rules are clear and appropriate consequences will need to be put in place and used. Make sure the rules are ones you will enforce and that does not keep your child from communicating with you. A possible consequence might be temporary restrictions on your child’s socializing.
• Parents and guardians are important role models for children. Even if you use alcohol, there may be ways to lessen the likelihood that your child will drink:
Use alcohol moderately
Don’t communicate to your child that alcohol is a good way to handle problems
Let your child see that you have other, healthier ways to cope with stress
Don’t tell kids stories about your own drinking in a way that says alcohol use is funny or glamorous
Never drink and drive or ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking
When you entertain other adults, make available alcohol free beverages and plenty of food. If anyone drinks too much at your party, make arrangements for them to get home safely.
• Your attitudes and behavior toward teen drinking also influence your child. Avoid jokes about underage drinking. Never serve alcohol to underage drinkers. Remember it is illegal to provide alcohol to minors who are not family members.
• If your child’s friends use alcohol, your child is more likely to drink too. So, encourage your child to develop friendships with kids who do not drink and are healthy influences on your child. Get to know your child’s friends and encourage your child to invite them to family get-togethers, outings and spend time with them in other ways. Finally talk with your child about the qualities in a friend that really count, such as trustworthiness and kindness, rather that popularity or a cool style. When you disapprove of a friend it is best to point out your reservations in a caring, supportive way and limiting time with the friend with family rules, such as how after school time can be spent or how late your child can stay out in the evening.
• One reason kids drink is to beat boredom. So, encourage your child to participate in supervised activities that are challenging and fun. According to a recent survey of preteens the availability of enjoyable, alcohol free activities is a big reason for deciding not to use alcohol. If the community does not offer these types of activities, consider getting together with other parents and young teens to help create some.
A way for you to discourage alcohol use by teens in your family and in Van Buren County is to join the Van Buren County SAFE Coalition. By working with the coalition, which has members from the school and other areas of the community, you can help to develop policies to reduce alcohol availability to teens and to enforce consequences for underage drinking. For more information about the SAFE Coalition contact them at 319-293-6412 or visit us on the web at http://www.vbsafecoalition.com/.