What Parents Should Know

It’s not easy being a parent. There are so many different “hats” you have to wear: family chauffeur, chef, homework expert, rule enforcer, organizer and budget director. Plus, you’re expected to be an expert on everything!

As your child gets older, he or she begins the road to independence—and the older they get, the less it seems they listen! However, it’s important to remember that adolescents actually do listen to their parents when it comes to issues like drinking and smoking, especially if the messages are conveyed consistently and with authority. Research suggests that only 19% of teens feel that parents should have a say in the music they listen to, and 26% believe their parents should influence what clothing they wear. However, the majority—around 80%—feel that parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol. *

In a 2014 online survey of 663 high school students by MADD, teens whose parents told them there were against underage drinking were more than 80% less likely to drink than teens whose parents didn’t give them a clear message. Only 8% of teens whose parents said that underage drinking was unacceptable were active drinkers. Nearly 50% of teens whose parents thought that underage drinking was acceptable or somewhat acceptable were active drinkers.

An annual survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University actually admonished parents for contributing to alcohol and drug use among kids ages 12-17.

The report stated, “Some parents fail to monitor their children’s activities, do not safeguard medications at home that can be used for abuse, and do not set good examples for kids.”

As Elizabeth Planet, Director of Special Projects for the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse said, “It’s important to do the parenting essential to help your child negotiate the difficult teen years free of tobacco, alcohol and drugs.”

* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2002, 2006

Can Alcohol Hurt Teens?

When you were growing up, the drinking age was probably age 18.  Many of our parents actually introduced us to drinking alcohol at home, because they thought it was safer that way.  Well, we know now that kids who start to drink at home end up having more problems with alcohol as adults. Thanks to a lot of research, we now have a better understanding of how alcohol affects teen brains.

As a teen or young adult, the brain is still growing and developing and will continue to do so until the age of 22-24. Studies now prove that drinking alcohol, even in small quantities, can harm that growth.

When teens drink alcohol, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream, and then affects the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord, which controls all body functions.

Even small amounts of alcohol can be risky. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down or depresses the brain. You might start out happy and relaxed, but usually alcohol makes you sad. Alcohol users often cry uncontrollably. It affects your ability to think, speak and even your sense of balance.

* KidsHealth Study from Nemours Foundation (690 kids ages 9-13)

In a national study, more than 90% of kids think teens that drink alcohol are not cool. 89% said drinking alcohol between ages 9-13 was never ok.

The Effects of Alcohol

  • Drinking alcohol can result in feeling physically ill, causing nausea, blackouts and even unconsciousness
  • An excess of alcohol can cause a “hangover”
  • Teens can often act out of character, or say or do something they don’t mean
  • It can hurt the ability to make good decisions. Kids who drink often act impulsively and do things they otherwise wouldn’t do—including having sex, or trying other drugs they otherwise wouldn’t
  • Teens (and adults!) can end up doing something embarrassing. When you drink alcohol, inhibitions are lessened.  This can be especially embarrassing especially since everything can be documented and put on the internet or sent through cell phones
  • When teens drink alcohol, they can be arrested and the adult providing the alcohol can also be arrested.  Teens also run the risk of being expelled from school or kicked off school teams, drill teams, band or other organizations
  • When teens drink, they can easily let their guard down and decide to trust someone they wouldn’t otherwise trust. They might decide to ride in a car with someone who has been drinking, or leave with someone they don’t know at all, which is risky
  • Teens who drink are more likely to get into fights, both verbally and physically
  • Teens who drink don’t do as well in school. It can damage their ability to study well and earn good grades
  • It can affect ytheir ability to perform well in sports, because alcohol affects balance and coordination
  • Teen drinkers are more likely to gain weight or have health problems like high blood pressure
  • Alcohol is addictive. If teens start drinking when they’re young, it increases their chances for developing alcoholism, especially if it runs in the family

Additional Resource:  www.kidshealth.org

YOU’RE A BETTER PARENT THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE

Do you ever feel like you’re doing everything wrong as a parent? That you don’t get to spend enough time with your teen? Or you don’t know how to help him with his homework? Or you missed the school play or ball game because of a business trip? Before you beat yourself up too much, consider this:

What you’re doing right: You feed your family.

You probably buy your child their favorite snacks. And serve a special dessert for celebrations, right? Remember, you don’t have to make everything home made, or buy organic or make a hot breakfast every day. You’re being a good parent by providing nourishment to your family.

Want to do a little bit better?

Eat meals together as a family, whether at home or at a restaurant. Turn off the TV, put down the cell phones and talk about your day. Ask every member of the family to share the best thing about the day to get the conversation started!

What you’re doing right: You’re teaching your child something every day.

Whether you’re teaching a child how to tie a shoelace, or how to drive a car, you’re a teacher. Does your child know not to cross the street in the middle of the road? Does your teen know how to fix a meal, or clean a sink? You’ve helped your child learn so much. Just remember, you’re teaching your child even if you don’t think you are: your actions do speak volumes to kids. Don’t do things you don’t want them to do.

Want to do a little bit better?

Think about the most important lessons you learned as a teen. You might have learned the lesson from your parent, or a friend or other family member. Have you taken the time to share your experience and the lesson you learned with your teen? If not, why not take your teen out for a special treat and share the story with them? The two of you could go to the ice cream or pizza parlor. Sometimes a little one-on-one time makes sharing a little easier.

What you’re doing right: You’re running a household.

As a parent, you’re responsible for doing the shopping, cleaning the house, managing the bills and making sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. By doing these every day things, you’re also showing your teen how to run a household.

How you can do a little better:

Want to do a little bit more? Make sure you teach your teen how to have a budget, and how to be prepared for life’s little surprises and disasters. Talk to them about the importance of saving, and have them start a savings account. There are great budgeting tools like mint.com that can help your teen (or your family) make and stick to a budget.

What you’re doing right: You’re human.

You’re not perfect, and neither is anyone else. But when you make a mistake, how do you handle it? Try to remember that your child will learn how to handle mistakes by watching you handle yours. Try not to fly off the handle. Don’t be too hard on yourself, or others.

How you can do a little better:

Pat yourself on the back for doing the best job you know how to do. Be sure to praise your child for doing the best they know how to do, as well. If you make a mistake, try to take a minute to regroup. The old, “count to 10” method works in a lot of situations.

Click here for a Parenting Checklist that can help you and your family through the teen years!