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. *
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)
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