Parents can share health, safety, & legal info with kids about alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and prescription drugs
By Central Vermont New Directions Coalition
As kids grow up from elementary, middle, high school and on through college, parents continue to play a vital role when it comes to the decisions their children make. Parents can let them know they are worried about alcohol and drug use and do not approve of underage drinking, vaping, or smoking. Even when you think they aren’t listening, your words and actions have a big impact on choices kids make. Are you wondering what to say? Here are some tips from Parent Up Vermont and more information is available online.
Be a positive role model
If you drink, be aware of why and how often you drink in front of your child. Show positive ways to handle stress. Don’t make casual comments about “needing a drink to relax” after a difficult day. Don’t drink and drive.
Provide nonalcoholic drinks at your adult parties. Don’t pressure others to use alcohol if they don’t drink.
Don’t have your children serve drinks in your home, and don’t ask them to get you a beer from the fridge.
If you don’t use alcohol, explain to your children why you have made that choice.
If you have a family history of drug or alcohol problems, or mental illness, talk about it with your child in the same way you would any other chronic disease, like heart disease or cancer. The key is to match the amount of information with the context of your child’s questions and your child’s maturity level. It’s best to avoid recounting your own youthful experimentation because your child may get the wrong idea that it’s harmless.
Provide accurate information about drugs and alcohol.
Explain that drinking alcohol before age 21 is against the law—and doing illicit drugs is illegal regardless of age. Make sure your child knows that even if marijuana may be legal in some states, it is still illegal for youth to use. Also talk about some of the dangers of drugs, tobacco use, and alcohol. Early use can cause changes to the brain making it harder to learn, remember, and pay attention, and can have long term effects including higher risk of dependence and addiction. Drinking alcohol can make people sick, affect decision making, and cause car crashes.
Talk about prescription medications.
All medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, are powerful and can be harmful when misused. Monitor medications, keep them locked up, and dispose of them properly at a collection box at the police station or sheriff’s office.
Discuss your rules and expectations for your child’s behaviors.
Be clear about what you expect, family rules, and consequences, and follow through.
Help your child feel safe, valued, and empowered.
Keep an open dialogue about the messages your child is receiving from the media. Make it clear to your child that you are always there to listen and support him and work to instill in him a sense of self-worth and power. Discuss depression and suicide and remind them that there is help.
Talk to your child’s friends and their parents. Have conversations and make the calls to ensure that parents are present when your kids are getting together at another house.
When adults provide alcohol to a minor, even looking the other way and allowing them to consume it, it sends a dangerous message. Taking away the keys is not the solution. Parties where alcohol is present carry an increased risk of alcohol poisoning, violence, date rape, unplanned sex, and injury. Any parent or older sibling selling or serving alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 can be charged, up to $2,000, even if you are on your own property. If a teen hosts a party where drinking takes place, parents may be held responsible if there is property damage, fighting, sexual assault, injury, or a fatality.
Teenagers are not safe when they drive (or ride with an impaired driver) to or from a graduation party where alcohol or drugs are available. Drivers under 21 with a blood alcohol content of .02 will lose their license for six months or longer. In addition to the safety risks, there are fines and penalties for consuming alcohol and marijuana while driving, buzzed and impaired driving, and having open containers.
Kids still need to know you care even if they give you a hard time. Everyone can be part of the community effort to work with kids and teens and help keep them safe and supported.
To report a party where you suspect alcohol will be served to minors, you can make an anonymous call to 223-3445.
Parent Up: For more parent tips on communication and identifying warning signs, visit the Parent Up Vermont website. http://parentupvt.org/how-can-i-help-prevent-it/monitor-your-teen
For more information on how to talk to your child about the dangers of alcohol, visit the “Talk: They Hear You” website at Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): https://www.samhsa.gov/underage-drinking