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This April we’ve been participating in Alcohol Awareness Month, a national education and information-sharing event to raise awareness of this important substance-abuse issue. While much recent attention has been devoted to youth JUULing/vaping/dabbing, it is important to remember that youth alcohol use is still of concern.  Alcohol Awareness Month is a good time to spread the word about the risks of alcohol use for kids and the important role parents have in preventing underage drinking.  Underage drinking accounts for 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S.  Kids might not drink as often as adults do, but they do drink more at a time, 90% of their alcohol use counts as binge drinking.

20% of Lamoille Valley youth report having drank alcohol, more than a few sips, before the age of thirteen.  This is higher than the state average of 14%.  This is concerning as those who use before the age of fifteen are 6 times more likely to struggle with substance use dependence later in life.  Binge drinking also increases the risk of alcohol poisoning, accidents, unprotected sex, and other negative consequences for youth.

Parents and teachers can help.  Most young people get access to alcohol through family members, or find it in their homes.  Adults can serve as positive role models to the youth in their life by being clear about the health risks of underage drinking, making sure alcohol isn’t available to kids in your home or at social events and parties, and having regular conversations that include the importance of not drinking alcohol.  Research shows that kids are less likely to drink alcohol if adults are supporting them and involved in their lives.

Have the conversation.  Short, frequent discussions have been shown to positively impact youth and help them deal with the social pressure to drink, particularly as they transition from middle school to high school where drinking is seen as a rite of passage.  Children benefit most from these conversations when adults build trust and provide the information that youth need as they get older and deal with their changing world and expectations.  Listen to kids, pay attention to their questions and what they have to say, you can make a difference in preventing underage drinking.

Here are some things that we can do to reduce youth alcohol use:

  1. Talk with the children and teens in your life about the importance of waiting until their brains have finished developing before consuming alcohol. Parentupvt.org is a great resource for this!
  2. Know where your children and teens are, who they are with, and that they are properly supervised. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  3. Encourage your children/teens to engage in quality activities outside of school time.
  4. Get to know other parents in the community and create a network of substance-free homes to keep your kids monitored and safe.
  5. Secure and monitor any adult-use substances in your home.
  6. Work with your town leaders to create substance-free policies for parks and areas where youth typically meet up.
  7. Host, attend and promote substance-free activities at community events where youth are in attendance.

 

For more information, visit healthylamoillevalley.org or email Jessica Bickford at jessica@healthylamoillevalley.org.