The drinking age is 21 in the United States. That’s the law.
But everyone knows that many high school kids drink beer, cheap wine, hard liquor — anything they can get their hands on. Right?
They sneak it from their parents’ stash, pay someone to buy it for them, snag a fake I.D. from an enterprising classmate. Lots of ways.
Of course, not all high school or middle school kids drink. But according to Students Against Destructive Decisions, or SADD, 41% have consumed more than a few sips of alcohol by eighth grade.
Often, parents are the first in line to help them get started.
Some parents turn a blind eye, considering teen drinking to be a rite of passage. “We all did it when we were in high school,” is what they say. “We turned out okay. It’s just what kids do!”
Some parents hold parties for kids, provide the alcohol, take the car keys. “We’re just providing a safe place for them!” they say.
Often, they were the same parents who doted on their kids in preschool, checked their homework in elementary school, and drove them all over town to sports practice in middle school. You’d never think they’d be the ones.
Sometimes, you can spot them. They’re the “pleaser” parents. The ones who can’t say no. Kids learn early on if their parents will give them…whatever they want.
Sometimes they are the parents who just want to be “friends” with their kids. And their kids’ friends. And sometimes…they are parents who are experts in keeping secrets.
What I hope will change, ultimately, is awareness of the consequences to the adolescent brain. . Most parents want to protect and nurture their child’s brain. Isn’t that why we insist on car seats, seat belts and bike helmets? And why we read to them, take them to music and art lessons and SAT prep classes?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, alcohol use by youth continues to be a major problem in the United States. Use of alcohol early in life is associated with future alcohol-related problems in life.
A new study also reports an increased incidence of benign breast disease among young women who regularly drink alcohol in their teens.
How do you know if your 6-year-old will be a teen drinker?
The AAP says that kids are more likely to drink if:
- They have friends who use alcohol, tobacco, or other substances
- They live in communities where alcohol and other drugs are cheap and easily attainable
- They are exposed to alcohol advertising.
Here are some tips from the National Institutes of Health on how parents can delay alcohol use by their kids:
- Improvement of parent-child relations using positive reinforcement, listening and communication skills and problem-solving
- Provision of consistent discipline and rulemaking
- Monitoring of children’s activities during adolescence
- Strengthening of family bonding
- Development of skills
- Involvement of child and parents
Here’s my tip: if you’re a parent, talk to other parents and find out how they feel about kids and drinking.
It’s never too early to start the conversation.