April brings us Spring Break, outdoor sporting events, and planning for end-of-year school celebrations. For many, alcohol features prominently in each of these rituals. Perhaps that is the way it has been for as long as we can remember, but is that the way you would like it to be?
Having young children and teens is a grand opportunity to re-examine our attitudes and habits. Our intentions and actions take on new meaning when we experience them in the context of our role as parents.
So with Alcohol Awareness Month as our prompt, let’s invite each other to consider the role of alcohol in our childrens' lives. Whether alcohol is significant in your own life or not, the fact is that in our school district, teen alcohol use is among the highest in our state. The reality for our 11th graders is that nearly half of them have had alcohol in the past 30 days. One-third of them report binge drinking in that same period.
This is not a case of teens behaving “well within the normal range.” California Department of Education’s most recent California Healthy Kids Survey data tells us that our own Tam Union teens use alcohol at higher rates than the rest of Marin County.
Something about our community of teens is different. That could be our signal to up our game when it comes to how we handle alcohol in our families. The number one recommendation for tackling this topic is to talk about it.
Don’t know how to start the conversation? Fortunately we have plenty of support. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility is one example, providing a “lifetime of conversations” toolkit with videos and talking points.
And next, what else to do? In addition to talking, you can take action that demonstrates your commitment to your words. Here are a few options:
Check that the sports and other organizations your teen is involved in is part of the Raising the Bar program, committing to alcohol-free sporting environments and celebrations all season long.
Join Be The Influence online, to get connected to information, actionable ideas and other BTI parent members in our community.
Check out this recent article with some myths and facts of underage drinking and the role parents can play.
Host a pre-prom party that is alcohol-free – focusing on the special night for the youth. We’ve heard from several parents who wait to serve adult beverages until after their kids have left for the evening – or opt out completely – as a way to model that special occasions and gatherings don’t need to include alcohol.