Every April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., or NCADD, holds an Alcohol Awareness Month to help community’s nationwide focus on alcohol related issues. This year, the theme is titled “Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow” highlighting the issue of underage drinking as well as alcoholism treatment and prevention.
Alcohol use by young adults has extremely devastating consequences for not only the individual but their families and community. Consuming too much alcohol increases the risk of health-related injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and certain types of cancer, according to healthfinder.gov and the NCADD. Teen alcohol use alone kills 6,000 young people each year, more than all other illegal drugs combined.
Recent research has shown that the affects of alcohol on the ever changing teenage brain has caused all doctors to screen for alcohol and drug abuse among teens. This month, there are many ways to ensure the safety of America’s youth, one being preventing underage drinking.
Communication is key in situations such as this as research has shown that there is a direct correlation between parent/teen relationships and alcohol abuse. Here are a few tips on how to effectively communicate with a teen about his/her alcohol use.
Talk about it: Before there is even a problem, we should be communicating with teens about the dangers of alcohol. Discussing these issues before there is blame, anger or punishment is important in preventing underage alcohol use.
Establish rules: Parents and teens should discuss the expectations on drug and alcohol use and that there will be consequences if the rules are broken. There should be standards and very clearly stated punishments. Making sure to follow through on this is extremely important in the effectiveness of preventing underage alcohol use.
Show that you care: Make sure that the teen understands that you are not here to punish them or doing this to be mean. You care about their health and wellbeing and want to keep them safe.
Pay attention: A lot of parents assume that their child wouldn’t make mistakes such as underage drinking; however this is not the best approach to keep our youth safe. Make sure that even when life gets crazy, you are paying attention to them and looking for any signs of alcohol or drug use.
Respect each other: Not only should young adults respect their parents, but parents should respect their children. Listen to them and respond in a respectful manner when they talk. Insisting that the child respect you as well will ensure that they will respect all adults who are respecting them.
Alcohol Awareness Month’s focus on underage drinking is critical to ensuring a healthy future for America’s Youth and requires a cooperative effort from all community members. “Take a day off of drinking this week” is the banner for Alcohol Awareness Month and we at the MDC encourage you to do the same.