Why a conversation makes a difference in your child’s alcohol consumption

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Spring Break is here and whether your kids will be home or travelling with friends, it’s important to make sure their vacation doesn’t include alcohol. We’re talking today with Heather Lewis, a substance use prevention expert in Utah County, about what parents can do to make sure their kids’ social environment remains alcohol-free.

Well, I think we’re all aware that Spring Break is a very popular party time for kids—and those celebrations often include alcohol. A recent survey looked at over 250,000 Instagram posts and over 10,000 Instagram photos with the hashtag #SpringBreak to see how often illicit substances are featured or mentioned. Over 50 percent of all posts made reference to alcohol or drugs, with ¾ of them mentioning alcohol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States and it’s the easiest to access for our kids. In addition, holidays like Spring Break and St. Patrick’s Day tend to normalize underage drinking—especially binge drinking.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than 4-5 servings of alcohol in a 2-hour period. People aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.

Although adolescents and young adults drink less often than adults, they tend to drink more than adults, frequently drinking as many as 5 or more drinks on a single occasion.

In Utah, kids are consuming large quantities of alcohol in a single sitting, sometimes as much as 8 drinks at a time. In fact, Utah kids are binge drinking at higher rates than their peers in other states.

In 2019, approximately 62% of 12th graders in Utah that reported drinking in the past 30 days also indicated binge drinking in the past 2 weeks, whereas nationally, about 46% of 12th graders who drank also reported binge drinking. The differences between Utah and national averages are even greater with our 8th and 10th graders.

Spring Break is right around the corner for students and whether your kids will be home or travelling with friends, it’s important to make sure their vacation doesn’t include alcohol. That’s why we’re encouraging parents to have a conversation with your kids, before the Break, about the harms of alcohol to the developing brain. Then make your rules clear about not drinking before age 21.

And while you might think your kids are more influenced by their peers, research shows the #1 reason kids choose not to drink is because of parental disapproval.

Studies show that if your child thinks you would view their drinking underage as very wrong, there’s a very small chance they will drink—only about 4 percent. But if your child perceives you would only view it as wrong or a little wrong, the likelihood dramatically increases—from 4 percent to 25 and 46 percent, respectively. That’s why parents’ clear rules against underage alcohol use are so powerful. (Utah Student Health and Risk Prevention Study, 2017).

For more information visit: Tackling hard talks with kids helps prevent underage drinking and ParentsEmpowered.org.

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