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Published on May 26th, 2017 | by Burlington Partnership

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Help support teens to celebrate safely this season!

This is a season of milestones for youth. With spring, the end of the school year, prom, graduation, transitions to high school/college, and the overall excitement about summer come lots of opportunities to spend time with friends and family, celebrating accomplishments and future plans. While most teens will make healthy choices, youth and adults alike may think of these milestones as “rites of passage” that should include alcohol. The good news is that statistically nearly 3 out of 4 Chittenden County high school students choose not to drink alcohol (2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey). It’s important for teens to know that underage drinking is not the norm. Praise your teens for the healthy choices they make, and reinforce how their choices affect their goals and future plans.

As parents, many of us subscribe to common myths related to underage drinking. Take a moment to get the facts so you can be a source of reliable information for your student this season and in those to come!

MYTH: Providing alcohol to teens at home decreases the risk for drinking problems in college or later in life AND/OR keeps them safe under a parent’s watchful eye.
TRUTH: The opposite is true – parents should be aware that supplying alcohol to minors actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.
TRUTH: Hosts can be fined up to $2000 and imprisoned up to two years for providing alcohol to minors.

MYTH: Young people from European cultures whose parents give them alcohol at an early age learn to drink more responsibly than their American counterparts.
TRUTH: When compared to youth from the US, a greater percentage of European youth report drinking regularly and having been intoxicated before the age of 13. The World Health Organization cites global longitudinal studies that found the earlier young people start drinking, the more likely they are to experience alcohol-related injury and alcohol dependence later in life.

MYTH: It’s not that big a deal, what’s a little beer going to do?
TRUTH: Adolescent brains continue to develop until their mid-twenties. Ninety percent of addictions start in the teen years, according to the Partnership™ for Drug-Free Kids’ 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study. And studies show that the younger a person starts drinking or using drugs, the more likely he or she will develop substance abuse issues.

MYTH: Teens are practically adults and old enough to make responsible decisions.
TRUTH: Many teens can and do make responsible decisions. However, remember that the teen brain is not fully developed until the mid-20’s. The frontal cortex, the area of the brain we make decisions with, is the last part of the brain to develop and the first area of the brain to be affected by alcohol use. Therefore teens make decisions with the back part of their brain (the amygdala) which controls instinctual, emotional, and impulsive decisions. This explains why teens sometimes make decisions that lead to risky behaviors and are at higher risk for academic failure, depression suicide, sexual assault, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, and other substance abuse.

MYTH: As long as my teen doesn’t drink and drive there’s nothing to worry about.
TRUTH: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that nearly one-third of underage drinking deaths involve impaired driving. The rest involve alcohol poisoning, homicides, suicides, and accidents.

Knowing the facts and planning celebrations without alcohol will make parenting easier this season. Some key points to consider include:

  • Be a source of reliable information.
  • Be sure your teen knows your expectations and the consequences for engaging in underage drinking.
  • Keep the focus on time with friends, and family.
  • Celebrate traditions and consider creating some new ones too!
  • Host alcohol free parties/events in your home
  • Offer other alcohol free options for celebrating with friends

Don’t forget, parents remain the #1 reason for a teen’s choice not to drink or use drugs. You’ve got this! Learn more at www.parentupvt.org.


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