To support parents in their effort to understand and reduce alcohol use by teens, we collected some of the most common questions we hear from parents…and then polled our prevention experts for answers. Check back regularly for new questions and answers. Q. We drank when we were teens…and teens drink in Europe. Is drinking by teenagers really so bad?
A. With the benefit of modern science and long-term data, we now have a much better understanding of how dangerous alcohol can be for the health and safety of teens. And it’s not just about drunk driving accidents. Studies at Duke University, and recommendations from the American Medical Association, demonstrate measurable damage to teen brains from alcohol use. And research from the CDC shows that teens who start drinking before age 15 are 5 times more likely to become alcohol dependent or abuse alcohol later in life than those who start drinking at or after age 21. Europe, historically known for liberal drinking attitudes, has been toughening its laws as a result of excessive binge drinking and hospitalization among teens there, as well as high alcoholism and cirrhosis rates among adults. The idea that “Europe does it right” is a myth that is not supported by health or safety data. Parents today should also be aware that alcoholic drinks marketed at young people have gotten more potent in recent years: popular products among teens today often come in 24 oz. cans with 10-13% alcohol by volume, versus 12 oz. bottles with 3.6-3.8% alcohol 25 years ago. Learn more about dangers of teen drinking.Q. There is pressure for teens to go to un-chaperoned after-prom houses and spring break trips. If I don’t want my daughter to be left out, how can I say no?
A. The time between spring break, prom and graduation is the most dangerous of the entire school year. The highest rate of drinking-related accidents, sexual assaults and fatalities happens during this time. If you care about the safety and welfare of your daughter, you will be clear with her that chaperones are required; and that you will call to check that adults are present and no alcohol is being served. Consider hosting an after-prom party at your house, or collaborating with other parents to organize substance-free after-prom activities. It can be done! Regarding spring break, keep in mind that most high school kids don’t actually go on these trips —because of family vacations, spring sports, college visits, jobs and internships, lifeguarding courses, financial limitations, safety concerns, etc. So if your daughter doesn’t go, she certainly won’t be the only one. In fact, feel free to use any of the aforementioned excuses. If you really want her to go along on a group trip, then you should make plans to chaperone. Learn more about prom safety
.Q. How can I tell if my teenager is drinking? What are the signs to look for?
A. Be awake and alert when your teen comes home. Try giving a hug and watch for hesitancy to hug you back. Notice any smell of alcohol or cover-up smells like mint. Have a brief conversation about their evening; look for lack of focus, hesitant or slurred speech, and uncoordinated movements. One of the benefits of a conservative curfew is that it enables parents to be awake and have this kind of interaction at the end of an evening. In general, stay connected with your teen, eat meals with them regularly, share a hobby, get to know their friends, and stay in touch with their friends’ parents if possible. If you do these things, you will likely have a good sense of whether your teen is drinking or not.