NDSU Extension - Mercer County


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Are You Having ‘The Talk’ About Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs?

underage drinking, parenting teens; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs

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

Calendars already are filling with exciting events for local high school students. Prom in Hazen April 1 and in Beulah April 8 with graduations just months away top the list for many as “rites of passage.”

This season of celebrations also is the time parents are thinking about how they will talk to their high school students about alcohol and other drugs.

Many parents have been using tools to teach their children to make healthy choices since they were toddlers. Parents know that having a good relationship with their children is like money in the bank; a reserve of good feelings will carry them through the rough times.

As a result, children know they always are able to talk to their parents about anything. Family dinnertime discussions are lively. The children also know how to identify and resist peer pressure through conversations and practice with each other and their parents.

One important note for parents: We do not raise children in a vacuum, and children find their way to potentially destructive substances such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for many reasons, even with positive parenting.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service recommends starting early when raising kids to resist alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Two resources to look at now, no matter the age of your child - birth to young adult - are Parents LEAD (Listen, Educate, Ask, Discuss) at www.Parentslead.org and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  at www.samhsa.gov/talk-they-hear-you/parent-resources/five-conversation-goals.

Here are five strategies from SAMHSA  to discourage underage drinking:

  • Show you disapprove of underage drinking. More than 80 percent of young people ages 10 to 18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink.
  • Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink, not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe.
  • Show you are a good source of information about alcohol. You don’t want your child to be learning about alcohol from friends, the internet or the media. You want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.
  • Show you are paying attention and you will notice if your child drinks. You want to show you’re keeping an eye on your child because young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice.
  • Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking. Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. Build skills and practice them with your kids.

Even though parents have raised their children to make healthy decisions, they still make a point of reiterating the faith they have in their children’s ability to follow the rules. They’re also helping their children practice how to say “no” in likely peer pressure situations in preparation for the upcoming graduation parties, prom and summer nights around the campfire.

Source: Kim Bushaw, NDSU family science specialist, 701-231-7450, kim.bushaw@ndsu.edu

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