Parents Are Key in Preventing Alcohol Use

A study by the Johnson Institute (a Minneapolis-based company dedicated to preventing the use and abuse of alcohol and other drugs in schools and the work place) found that permissiveness at home regarding alcohol use by parents is a major factor in kids' alcohol use.

Parents continue to be the first and best source of alcohol prevention education for their children. The positive example, education and values they provide have a big influence on the child's view of acceptability of using alcohol or other drugs. Students who feel connected with their families and are getting clear no-use messages on alcohol and other drugs are less likely to develop problems.

There are several ways you can become actively involved in preventing alcohol use in your children:

1. Teach assertiveness.
Help your child recognize risky situations, such as being at a house where no adults are present and young people are smoking or drinking alcohol. Role play a variety of situations with your child. Practice these skills until you are confident your child knows how to say no.

2. Encourage teen wellness.
Young adolescents are very concerned about how others see them. You can help your child develop a positive self-image by making sure that he feels healthy. Help your teen to eat well, exercise, manage stress and take care of his body.

3. Spend time alone with your child.
Your child's fears about emerging sexuality, appearing different from friends, going on to middle or high school are real problems and deserve your concern and attention. Take time to talk to her about her ideas, feelings, fears and dreams.

4. Set clear limits.
Parents must be able to take positions (on drinking, curfews, dating, sleepovers, bedtime and study time) and hold that line in the face of bickering, blackmail or other tactics. Periodically review and update the house rules with your child and discuss their fairness and appropriateness.

5. Talk with your child about friendship.
Make the point that true friends don't ask each other to do things they know are wrong and risk harm to themselves, their friends or families. Find out who your child's friends are -- talk with their parents and discuss your own values and decisions about alcohol use. Choose your own friends carefully and make sure you set a good example regarding alcohol use.

6. Try to control unsupervised time.
Researchers have found that lunchtime and between 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. are periods that young people are likely to experiment with alcohol and other drugs. Know where your child is and what she is doing during these times. Involve her in supervised after-school activities. Check on her during the day.

7. Let your teen stay overnight or attend a party only when responsible adults are present.
Call his friend's parents to make sure they will be home and will provide the necessary supervision. Find out if your school or community offers a SAFE HOME program -- check to see if your child's friend's family is listed.

8. Cooperate with other adults to support non-use.
In talking with one another, parents quickly learn that, regardless of what their teens say, everybody else's parents are not allowing their children to drink. Become a SAFE HOME; check with your local school district or police precinct about the SAFE HOME program. Support non-alcohol coffeehouses, dances and other teen activities.

9. Know the facts about teen alcohol use.
Investigate the school's policy regarding alcohol use. Support that policy when it matches your values; work to change it if it doesn't. Discuss what alcohol education programs your child's teacher plans to use. Review the information with your child. Know the warning signs of alcohol abuse.

10. Plan supervised, non-alcohol parties and other activities in your home.
Set an example of moderation or abstinence in your own use of legal substances and refrain from using illegal ones.

Alcohol is often used by young people as a way of coping with the many changes they are experiencing. The number of teens who say they drink to get away from problems and deal with frustration has been steadily rising. Unfortunately, drinking in these circumstances makes things worse, never better. Most kids want their parents to take a firm stand with them in saying NO to alcohol and other drugs. Where alcohol is concerned, the only risk free choice for kids and teens is to say NO! Let's help them do it!

Based on an article by George T. Watkins in the "Student Assistance Journal," and "A Parent's Guide to Prevention" a U.S. Department of Education publication. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 73


Michelle Leveski
Nutrition Educator II
518-234-4303 x115

Last updated July 10, 2020