Under the influence … of parents

5 ways parents can curb underage drinking

Here’s a staggering fact: One-third of all teenagers drink.

Teen drinking is an issue — and if you think your teen is not doing it, the statistics hint otherwise.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six teens drank alcohol before age 13, and about the same proportion of high school kids took part in binge drinking.

“Parents need to accept the fact that their teen may have experimented with drinking or has been exposed to it through their peers,” said Nikki Boyd, coordinator of health and wellness for the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Prevention & Wellness of Norton Children’s Hospital. “As a parent, you should talk openly in an upfront and honest way, like all conversations you have with your children.”

According to two studies published in the July issue of Prevention Science, children learn how to manage alcohol from their parents — including how often and how much they drink. Additionally, children as young as elementary school age who are taught a drinking prevention program from their parents were less inclined to drink four years after the start of the program.

“As much as we think our children are not paying attention to us as parents, they really are,” Boyd said. “Children are watching how frequently their parents drink, how alcohol impacts their parent’s mood as well as when a parent turns to alcohol.

“The way you, as a parent, manage alcohol can potentially direct your child’s behavior toward drinking.”

Five tips for talking to your child about alcohol:

• Establish open communication. Encourage conversation and ask open-ended questions. Make it easy for you and your child to talk honestly with one another. Avoid questions that have a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

• Show you care. Make it a priority to regularly spend one-on-one time with your child. Even if your child doesn’t show it, your child needs to know he or she is a priority to you.

• Draw the line. There’s a fine line between being a parent and being a friend. But it’s a line you have to draw. Set realistic expectations for your child’s behavior. Establish appropriate consequences for breaking rules and consistently enforce them.

• Offer support and acceptance. Acknowledge your child’s efforts and accomplishments. Make every conversation a “win-win” experience. Avoid lecturing your child by showing how he or she is “wrong.” Show respect for your child’s viewpoint, and your child will be more likely to listen and respect yours.

• Control your emotions. If you hear something you don’t like, try not to respond with anger. Take a few deep breaths and acknowledge your feelings in a constructive way.

“Teens want to feel respected and valued, and that you trust them to make good choices,” Boyd said. “Communicate in a way that allows the teen to feel like they have a say in creating the rules or what constitutes acceptable behavior.”