Attention parents! Your influence is everything in preventing underage drinking

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The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has always had a two-fold mission. The first is to provide a public service to make alcohol available to those adults who choose to drink responsibly. The second however is much more important; to promote the reduction of the harmful effects and consumption of alcoholic products by minors. Underage drinking is a problem in Utah and studies continuously show that when parents are clear about their strong disapproval of underage drinking, most kids don’t drink.

An education campaign called Parents Empowered, is designed to prevent and reduce underage drinking in Utah by providing parents and guardians with information about the harmful effects of alcohol on the developing teen brain, along with proven skills for preventing underage alcohol use. The Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is the lead agency for the campaign and is working in partnership with other state agencies and organizations to spread the message.

As the state’s underage drinking prevention initiative for the past 15 years, it’s done an incredible job of getting information and tools to parents to help them protect kids’ healthy brains from the harms of alcohol so kids can reach their full potential. The campaign is based on a lot of research that shows parents are a huge influence in their kids’ lives—more than we might think. And that is good news. For example, as said earlier, kids themselves report the number one reason they choose not to drink underage is because of strong parental disapproval.

Ultimately, parents are the solution. However, kids often get access to alcohol with the help of an adult. In Utah, 44% of underage drinkers get their alcohol from their parents, with their permission. Alcohol has very different effects on the developing adolescent brain than an adult’s. That’s why Parents Empowered works to inform parents about the potential harms and encourages them to set clear family rules against underage drinking. 

“Parents Empowered can be so helpful,” says Tiffany Clason, Director of Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. 

When Tiffany’s 9-year old asks questions about her job, they usually revolve around alcohol and what she does for work. It can be hard to know how to address these types of questions in a healthy, informed, and productive way.

Tiffany says, “At times I feel inadequate to answer them, but I’m glad he’s asking my husband and me those questions now.”

Parents Empowered provides lots of facts and conversation starters—even a Chit Chat game to get kids talking—on its website. If parents can provide their kids with specific facts about the harms of underage drinking—that are age-appropriate—parents can establish themselves as reliable sources of information and they’ll keep coming back for advice. It’s also important to make these casual chats a two-way street, where they can share their thoughts and feelings too.

Visit Parents Empowered or follow Parents Empowered on Facebook or Instagram. Thanks so much for the chance to be here today.

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