Of course parents want to protect their children from dealing with alcoholism, but many parents are unsure of the best way to do that. When thinking about kids and alcohol abuse prevention, it’s important to understand that early education is the key.
Alcoholism is a serious problem for many teens and even preteens, so education about alcohol and drugs needs to begin at an early age. While schools often provide some education about these matters, parents need to educate their children as well.
Recently, Dr. John Donovan at the University of Pittsburgh reviewed a number of studies conducted nationwide over a 15 year period and found many interesting facts related to kids and alcohol abuse. Nearly four percent of all 11 year old children reported drinking alcohol on a weekly basis. Older children were even more likely to drink alcohol on a regular basis.
Disturbingly, many children reported that their parents gave them their first taste of alcohol, often wine or beer. In most cases, parents did not allow their children to taste alcohol because they thought it was a good idea for their children to take up drinking. However, when alcohol was served at a festive gathering like family holiday events or weddings, many parents saw no harm in letting their children have a sip of something alcoholic.
Research showed, though, that casual use of alcohol at an early age significantly increased the risk of children developing drinking problems later on. Such early use of alcohol was also associated with things like problems in school, juvenile delinquency and teenage pregnancy. The relationship of kids and alcohol abuse to other problems in the teenage years may come as a surprise to many parents. It just goes to show, though, how important that early education is.
Studies show that when parents talk to their kids about alcohol use and abuse, their kids are 50 percent less likely to begin drinking. Many experts recommend parents begin talking to their kids about alcohol when kids begin the fifth grade in school. Parents can begin talking about alcohol with kids when kids are younger than that as long as they provide age appropriate information.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests parents develop an open dialog with their children about alcohol use by asking open ended questions instead of yes or no questions. Also ask questions that your child will perceive as non-judgmental. For instance, ask, “Why do you think some young people drink alcohol?” instead of saying, “You’d never try beer, would you?”
When talking about kids and alcohol abuse, be clear that you want your child to pass up alcohol, at least until he is an adult. Encourage your child to talk to you about alcohol, though, even if he does decide to drink. Remain calm when your child shares things with you and encourage him to keep talking. Help your child identify reasons to avoid alcohol and provide your child with accurate information about the effects of alcohol use and abuse.
If you choose to drink when your child is present, make sure you do so responsibly. Drink only in moderation and never drive when you’ve been drinking.
Dealing with alcoholism in children and teens can be heartbreaking for parents. No matter what parents do, some children will develop alcoholism; it can’t always be prevented, although often it can. If you are dealing with alcoholism in one of your children, seek professional help so your child can get his life back on track as quickly as possible.