Even though the legal drinking age in the United States is 21, more than a quarter of all alcohol consumed here is drunk by people under the age of 20! Experts at Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse have found that more than 30 percent of today’s high school students binge drink at least once a month (five drinks in a row) and that teen drinking represents a $27 billion dollar annual business in the US.
Within hours of the announcement, the alcohol industry began criticizing the report, calling it “flat out wrong”. They say that only 10 percent of all alcohol is consumed by teens.
While others argue about the numbers, our concern is our teens. Build a bridge to your teen by developing an active interest in at least one thing your child loves. This will give you something positive to talk about as a backdrop for whatever other conversations you have.
Don’t be afraid to bring up the consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. Watching TV or a movie together can be a good springboard for conversation. And have dinner together whenever possible, as a chance to connect. Be your child’s biggest fan. Help facilitate friendships with positive peers, and actively model positive behavior yourself.
If you do suspect a problem, waste no time in getting professional help. But whatever else you say or do, the most immediate message children need repeated is that if they or someone they know has been drinking, they MUST NOT get behind the wheel. Call. And there will be no negative words from you that night, just help getting a ride. Tens of thousands of teens are killed or injured each year in alcohol-related crashes. Tens of thousands of parents know the pain of this tragedy.
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