The USA Today article titled Most teen-drinking deaths aren’t traffic-related is not really new information, but it serves as a reminder to all parents to speak with your sons and daughters about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking beyond drinking and driving.
That said, we believe it overlooks one key point: parents should not wait until their kids are of legal driving age to start these conversations.
From our own underage drinking research, we know parents believe the average age they should begin discussing the dangers and consequences of underage drinking with their children is age 11. Further, parents and kids both report parents are the leading influence in their child’s decision to not drink or not to drink on occasion, and that eight out of ten parents think it is extremely important to have early conversation about alcohol as a way to combat peer pressure and delay potential experimentation.
Parents must initiate and manage an ongoing conversation about alcohol starting in middle school, if not earlier, so that the parent establishes a solid foundation for such dialogue once the teen reaches the legal driving age in their state.
As parents, our role is to educate, guide and help keep our children safe, and one of the best ways to do this is by talking with our children early and regularly about a variety of issues, including tough conversations like underage drinking. The Century Council invites parents, teachers, and caregivers to join the conversation during Alcohol Awareness Month and all year long to help fight drunk driving and underage drinking. The Century Council has a variety of educational initiatives and resources to help parents facilitate these conversations from middle school through high school and college.
We know, even when they don’t appear to be listening, your children are – over the last 10 years 62% more kids reported talking with their parents about underage drinking and underage drinking has declined during the same period. The statistics prove parents are making a difference, but it is still important to continue to engage in ongoing conversations about this important topic and empower our sons and daughters to say “no” to underage drinking.