By Erika Arthur | Point of View
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, around 50% of teenagers have tried illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime.
With drugs and binge drinking on the rise, it’s essential to recognize the importance of alcohol and substance abuse education in schools and to ask parents to support the effort by encouraging open conversations with their children about underage drinking at home.
Education provided in a school setting is instrumental in teaching children and teens about the potential implications of their actions and habitual behaviors. Alcohol education in schools offers a different perspective on substance abuse and a different atmosphere where young people may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and experiences with alcohol.
As much as every parent wants their child to feel like they can be completely transparent, it doesn’t always happen, and having a school-based curriculum and services, can be an excellent resource for families.
Many Valley schools offer alcohol education and behavioral health services, so I encourage parents to investigate what alcohol education resources are available at their child’s school.
These resources may include after-school programs, school counselor meetings, peer discussion groups, and more. Sessions provide young people with valuable information, insightful stories, examples and case studies, and advice about seeking help or assisting others.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that every $1 spent on prevention contributes 10-fold savings on drug and alcohol treatment. Therefore, talk to your child before exposure to alcohol and other drugs. When parents talk with their children early and often, they are more likely to respect your rules and advice.
It’s never too early to talk to your children about alcohol, especially because many children may try alcohol or other drugs at a very young age.
About 10 percent of 12-year-olds say they have tried alcohol; by age 15, that number jumps to 50 percent. Although those statistics sound scary, believe it or not, you significantly influence your child’s decisions to experiment with alcohol. One of the most influential factors during a child’s adolescence is maintaining a strong, open relationship with a parent. When parents create supportive and nurturing environments, children make better decisions.
The importance of alcohol prevention discussions at school and home
Though it may not always seem like it, children listen to their parents’ concerns, so parents must discuss the risks of using alcohol.
Alcohol misuse by school-aged children arises from risk factors associated with genetics, culture, environment, and the behavioral patterns of consumption by parents or other family members.
These may also occur due to interpersonal, sensation-seeking, or impulsive issues and/or concerns, not to mention curiosity and peer pressure. Alcohol prevention discussions at home and school are imperative to prevent or delay the onset of alcohol use.
By utilizing the school as a resource and supporting it with discussions about alcohol at home, parents create an atmosphere where young people are more likely to be transparent and share their honest feelings about alcohol and how it impacts their lives.
Editor’s note: Erika Arthur is a school-based therapist for Southwest Behavioral & Health Services School and Community-based Counseling Services West program.