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Parents: It Starts With You
Heading back to school means new experiences and new challenges for teens. Often, teenagers turn to drugs and alcohol due to peer pressure or to cope with the stress of a new school year.
On any given day, more than 4,000 teens will use an illegal drug for the first time. Almost 7,000 will drink alcohol for the first time and nearly 2,000 will try using a prescription pain reliever without a doctor's prescription.
As a parent, you may think that you're no longer the most influential person in your child's life, but it’s actually the opposite. We all know that teens are headstrong and want to face challenges on their own. The reality is that teens need (and secretly want) parental guidance.
Drug education in schools and after-school programs can reduce the risk that teens will get into drugs and alcohol, but parents remain the first line of defense. Teens appreciate you and remember your advice even when it seems like they are not paying attention.
Where do you begin?
Listen to your teen. Take the time to see what is going on in their lives. Use positive communication skills when talking openly and honestly, especially when there is conflict. Understand your child by observing and respect them by listening. They will respect you in return.
Do more than tell your teens about drugs and alcohol. Set clear expectations. It's important that you don't leave room for "gray" areas. Your child needs to know exactly where you stand. Once again, if there is conflict, be respectful. Listen to their side and explain your reasoning. The dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol are not a myth, they are very real and your kids need to know that it can happen to them.
Most importantly, be a good role model. You may not realize it, but your actions have a huge impact on the choices your teen makes. Parents' or caregivers' abuse of alcohol and other drugs significantly increases like likelihood of a teen using drugs and developing a lifelong substance abuse problem of their own.
You don't have to be an expert. Supply your children with the knowledge to make the right decisions. Listen and give your children a role model to respect.
Underage Drinking Myths vs. FACTS
MYTH: Cracking down on drinking will only make kids want to drink more. FACT: We tend to think of young people as naturally rebellious, but research shows that the majority of kids respond best to set rules and clear expectations.
MYTH: Alcohol isn't as harmful as other drugs. FACT: Alcohol kills 6.5 times more youth than all other illegal drugs combined. Drinking too much alcohol can result in alcohol poisoning which can have fatal consequences.
MYTH: It is better for kids to start drinking young, so that they can learn how to handle it. FACT: The adolescent brain is still developing. Drinking before the age of 21 places kids at a higher risk for academic failure, depression, suicide and sexual assault. People who begin drinking alcohol before the age of 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking after age 21.
MYTH: It's okay as long as they don't drink and drive. FACT: Only one-third of underage drinking deaths involve automobile accidents. The remaining two-thirds involve alcohol poisoning, homicides, suicides and unintentional injuries such as burns, drowning and falling.