Although the legal drinking age in the U.S. is 21, alcohol is the drug of choice among America’s adolescents and is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs.
Youth generally drink less often than adults, but drink more than adults when they do use alcohol (binge drinking). Nationally, South Dakota teens rank 2nd highest for binge drinking at 26.2%. And South Dakota teens rank 5th highest for driving after drinking at almost 11%.
Underage drinking is a problem shared by all communities and can have serious consequences for both young people’s health and the well-being of the community.
The good news is that underage drinking can be prevented. Research shows that parents are the #1 reason young people decide not to drink. So, start talking to your children about alcohol before they start drinking—as early as 9 years old. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, they really do hear you.
Talking To Kids About Alcohol – 5 Conversation Goals
1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking. – Over 80% of young people ages 10-18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. So they really are listening, and it’s important that you send a clear and strong message.
2. Show you care about your child’s happiness and well-being. – Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink—not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re working with, and not against, your child.
3. Show you’re a good source of information about alcohol. – You want your child to be making informed decisions about drinking, with reliable information about its dangers. You don’t want your child to be learning about alcohol from friends, the internet, or the media—you want to establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information.
4. Show you’re paying attention and you’ll notice if your child drinks. – You want to show you’re keeping an eye on your child, because young people are more likely to drink if they think no one will notice. There are many subtle ways to do this without prying.
5. Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking. – Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. It could be tempting to drink just to avoid looking uncool. To prepare your child to resist peer pressure, you’ll need to build skills and practice them.
Keep it low-key. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get everything across in one talk. Many small talks are better.
Download more talking points [pdf] from the Parents Matter Campaign at http://www.safesouthdakota.com/images/TalkingPoints_3.17.14.pdf.
Learn what you can do to help protect your loved ones and community by downloading the Fact Sheet on Prevention of Underage Drinking in the U.S. [pdf].
- Safe South Dakota – Take a Stand – A campaign from Parents Matter about talking with your kids about underage drinking & driving.
- Too Smart To Start – A website that helps youth, families, educators and communities prevent underage alcohol use and its related problems.
- UnderageDrinking.SAMHSA.gov – A public education website supported by the Surgeon General’s Call to Action on underage drinking that communicates to parents how they can help reduce their child’s risk of becoming involved with alcohol.
- Stop Underage Drinking – A collaboration among SAMHSA and other federal agencies, this website provides a wealth of information on underage drinking, such as data and statistics; resources for parents, youth, educators, community organizations and businesses; and more.
- Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide [PDF] – A guide provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) that serves as a tool for identifying youth at risk for alcohol-related problems.