NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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A Summer of Fun or a Summer of Dangerous Underage Drinking?

underage drinking, teens

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

Summer is a season where everything is more relaxed. Parents tend to feel a little less anxious and not worry as much about children’s academic achievements. However, summer is also the season when kids have more time, less responsibilities and less parental/adult supervision. Parents may not enforce the same rules they do during the school year, which can sometimes result in illegal and dangerous activity.

Despite declining rates, ALCOHOL remains the most widely used drug by our youth. Compared to other states, our state continues to rank high in the nation in underage and binge drinking.

  • Over half (68%) of their high school peers have had a drink sometime in their life and one fourth (25%) have participated in binge drinking in the past month.
  • North Dakota is ranked #1 for binge alcohol use among youth ages 12-20.
  • Nearly 4% of middle school students in North Dakota had their first drink of alcohol at 8 years of age or younger.
  • 17% of North Dakota high school students had their first full drink before age 13.
  • In Beulah 23.4% of high school students reported drinking alcohol before age 13.

Teens want and need to let go of the past and find their own unique identity. The decision-making and problem-solving methods they learned as young children are still helpful, but young teens will be making new decisions based on new information and new goals. Parents need to be actively talking to their children about the dangers of underage drinking, driving after alcohol or drug use, or riding in a vehicle with someone who has consumed alcohol or drugs.

Teens understand their actions have consequences and know their behavior affects others. They sometimes have a shaky self-image; they are not sure whether they are growing and changing adequately, are often in conflict with adults, are not sure where they are headed and tend to see themselves as not "okay."

Young people who experiment with alcohol, tobacco, and drugs typically begin before leaving the ninth grade. Parents talking to their teens need to emphasize their family values and the importance of staying true to themselves and their values. Another tip for a parent to remember is that when talking to teen or preteen about drugs, they should emphasize the immediate, unpleasant effects of alcohol and other drug use.

Using drugs is something many young people do because they see their friends using drugs. A large portion of your prevention efforts during these years should be spent reinforcing your child's motivation to avoid alcohol and other drugs, and guiding them in their decisions of who to spend time with.

Parents need to set clear rules regarding alcohol use and provide positive examples to influence their teens. Consequences need to be enforced and set in stone - say what you mean and mean what you say. By sending consistent messages as parents, you’re helping your teens make better decisions until they’re making them all on their own, no matter what the season.

Source: www.parentslead.org

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