Parents Play a Vital Role
Preventing childhood drinking starts early…..much earlier than you think. As your child develops, your parenting style will influence your child’s behavior for years to come. Research has documented that adolescents whose parents were authoritative were less likely to drink heavily than adolescents from the other three parenting styles, and they were less likely to have close friends who used alcohol.  An authoritative parenting style is one that:
- monitors and imparts clear standards for their child’s conduct;
- is assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive;
- uses disciplinary methods that are supportive, rather than punitive.
For more information on parenting styles, see: http://pediatrics.about.com/od/infantparentingtips/a/04_pntg_styles.htm
A child that is in chronic stress from such things as family dysfunction and chaos; emotional, physical or sexual abuse; domestic, school, and neighborhood violence is also more likely to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, “one in four children and adolescents in the U.S. experiences at least one potentially traumatic event before the age of 16, and more than 13% of 17-year-olds–one in eight–have experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in their lives. It is estimated that 29% of adolescents –nearly one in three — have experiemented with illegal drugs by the time they complete 8th grade, and 41% have consumed alcohol. For many adolescents, such early experimentation eventially progresses to abuse of–or dependence on–illicit drugs or alcohol. Numerous studies have documented a correlation between trauma exposure and substance abuse.” For more information on childhood trauma and substance abuse, see: http://www.nctsn.org/products/making-connection-trauma-and-substance-abuse-2008.
As a parent/caregiver, you influence your child’s behavior more than you think. Following are things you can do to help your child make the right decision about experimenting with alcohol.
- Use an authoritarian parenting style. Begin early and be consistent.
- Minimize your child’s exposure to chaos, dysfunction, and abuse.
- Set a good example for your children regarding the use of alcohol. That is, drink socially and in moderation with adult groups, and limit drinking when children are present. Never drink and drive.
- Encourage your children to talk with you about their problems and concerns.
- Get to know your children’s friends and their families.
- Discuss ways your children can avoid drinking when they are feeling pressured by their peers.
- Talk to other parents about ways to send a consistent, clear message that underage drinking is not acceptable behavior or a “rite of passage.”
- Encourage your children to participate in supervised activities and events that are challenging, fun, and alcohol free.
- Learn the warning signs that indicate your children may be drinking and act promptly to get help.
- Make sure you’re at home for all your children’s parties and be sure those parties are alcohol free. Remember, “Parents who host, lose the most!”
To reach a bilingual Parents Toll-Free Helpline, where licensed social workers skilled in addiction counseling offer confidential, comforting guidance for concerned callers, call 1-855-DRUGFREE. For more information, see: http://www.drugfree.org/tag/parents-toll-free-helpline.
For more information on parental influences on youth drinking behavior, the following article is made available by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.
 Bahr SJ, Hoffmann JP. 2010. Parenting style, religiosity, peers, and adolescent heavy drinking. J of Studies Alcohol Drugs, Jul;71(4):539-43.