Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parent's Influence on Teen Drinking

Source: Connect with Kids

“My parents are pretty powerful in my life. I have their respect, and they have mine.”

– Deepak, 16 years old

Teenagers are bound to experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex – right?

Not necessarily, says 15-year-old Nick. “It’s not inevitable,” he says. “It’s just a personal decision.”

“There’s [sic] a lot of people who just don’t want to try any of that stuff, but there are some people who do,” says 15-year-old Chris Mullings.

The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs reports that when underage drinkers are disciplined by their parents they are less likely to become heavy drinkers compared to kids whose parents ignore their drinking.

“My parents have a pretty big influence on everything that I believe in – what I will and won’t do,” says Elizabeth, 15.

Nick echoes her sentiments. “For all my decisions, I’m always thinking about what they taught me, and even if I don’t do what they said, it’s still always in my head,” he says.

What’s more, teens themselves say parents help them make healthy choices by talking to them and knowing where they are, whom they’re with and what they’re doing. And when their expectations are clear.

“If they have heard what you think is appropriate behavior and you have modeled it, when they are in a position where they have to think critically, they have already had a chance to, in some ways, rehearse it,” says psychologist Dr. Peter Thomas.

And, experts say, if you find your teen has been experimenting- speak up!

“By not commenting directly, they’re, in essence, giving their child permission to continue to drink or get stoned or do whatever they’re doing because the child will interpret their silence as its okay, it doesn’t matter,” explains psychologist, Alexandra Phipps. “I would tell parents if you don’t talk about things with your child, it’s probably going to happen again and again and it’s probably going to get worse.”

Tips for Parents

Research defines binge drinking as having five or more drinks in a row. Reasons adolescents give for binge drinking include: to get drunk, the status associated with drinking, the culture of drinking on campus, peer pressure and academic stress. Binge drinkers are 21 times more likely to: miss class, fall behind in schoolwork, damage property, injure themselves, engage in unplanned and/or unprotected sex, get in trouble with the police, and drink and drive.

Young people who binge drink could be risking serious damage to their brains now and increasing memory loss later in adulthood. Adolescents may be even more vulnerable to brain damage from excessive drinking than older drinkers. Consider the following:

The average girl takes her first sip of alcohol at age 13. The average boy takes his first sip of alcohol at age 11.

Underage drinking causes over $53 billion in criminal, social and health problems.

Seventy-seven percent of young drinkers get their liquor at home, with or without permission.

Students who are binge drinkers in high school are three times more likely to binge drink in college.

Nearly 25 percent of college students report frequent binge drinking, that is, they binged three or more times in a two-week period.

Autopsies show that patients with a history of chronic alcohol abuse have smaller, less massive and more shrunken brains.

Alcohol abstinence can lead to functional and structural recovery of alcohol-damaged brains.
Alcohol is America’s biggest drug problem. Make sure your child understands that alcohol is a drug and that it can kill him/her. Binge drinking is far more pervasive and dangerous than boutique pills and other illicit substances in the news. About 1,400 students will die of alcohol-related causes this year. An additional 500,000 will suffer injuries.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that 51 percent of male college students and 40 percent of female college students engaged in binge drinking in the previous two weeks. Half of these drinkers binged frequently (more than three times per week). College students who binge drink report:

Interruptions in sleep or study habits (71 percent).
Caring for an intoxicated student (57 percent).
Being insulted or humiliated (36 percent).
An unwanted sexual experience (23 percent).
A serious argument (23 percent).
Damaging property (16 percent).
Being pushed, hit or assaulted (11 percent).
Being the victim of a sexual advance assault or date rape (1 percent).

Students must arrive on college campuses with the ability to resist peer pressure and knowing how to say no to alcohol. For many youngsters away from home for the first time, it is difficult to find the courage to resist peer pressure and the strength to answer peer pressure with resounding no. Parents should foster such ability in their child’s early years and nurture it throughout adolescence. Today’s youth needs constant care from parents and community support to make the best decisions for their wellbeing.

Alcohol Policies Project
Focus Adolescent Services
Harvard School of Public Health
National Youth Violence Prevention Center
Psychological Assessment Research & Treatment Services