Many parents wait until their children are in high school to talk about alcohol; however, research shows that parents should be starting these conversations before age 10.

Of course, these discussions are better late than never, but the key when it comes to discussing alcohol is to start early and stick with it.

Did you know that children who begin drinking at age 13 have a 45 percent chance of becoming alcohol dependent as an adult? Or that on asverage, East Texas kids start drinking alcohol at 13 years old? Or that half of all lifetime cases of mental and substance use disorders begin by age 14?

These few statistics show the need for prevention efforts beginning at a young age.

This aligns with the theme for this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month: “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.” Alcohol Awareness Month is sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and is every April.

The East Texas Substance Abuse Coalition works to make changes at the environmental level to create safer communities and decrease the chance of underage drinking, but we can’t do it alone.

We can be successful only when we work together to create safe environments – at home and in the community – for our young people to strive and be their best.

Parents tend to think their children don’t listen to them; however, research shows otherwise.

Research shows that parental disapproval is the No. 1 reason kids don’t drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Kids are much less likely to drink when clear rules and expectations are set, they’re given the facts about alcohol and communication is open.

Kids who receive messages that their parents completely disapprove of underage drinking are 80 percent less likely to drink than those who don’t, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

However, it shouldn’t be a one-time, “I will kill you if I catch you drinking!” talk. Parents need to have ongoing, age-appropriate conversations with their kids.

In an age-appropriate way, explain why the legal drinking age is 21 and the harms in alcohol use.

If you have an 8-year-old, you might explain that their brain is still growing and alcohol could harm that special process.

If you have a 15-year-old, you could talk about the disruption in brain development, as well as the potential for chronic problems such as greater risk for alcohol addiction, dangerous risk-taking behavior, reduced decision-making ability, memory loss, depression, violence and elevated suicide risk.

It doesn’t stop there though.

Parents should encourage conversations about alcohol and make their kids feel comfortable in coming to them with questions or concerns.

Also, find ways to talk to your kids about alcohol without interrogating them or making them feel untrusted.

Parents should find small, casual ways to bring up drinking in everyday conversations.

It can be awkward and uncomfortable to have these conversations at first, but it will be well worth the effort you put into it. If you want more information on the dangers of underage drinking and tips for talking to your kids, visit our blog at nextstepcommunitysolutions.com. Let’s get the conversation started. We can’t afford to wait any longer.

Next Step Community Solutions