If you as a parent think your teen hasn’t experimented with alcohol, the statistics could shake up your assumptions.
In 2012, one-fourth of twelfth graders reported binge drinking and 11 percent of eighth-graders said they consumed alcohol in a 30-day period prior to a survey conducted by the Institute for Social Research at The University of Michigan.
But you can take steps to forestall your teen’s interest in drinking.
To help protect your teen, know what leads to that first drink and develop anti-drinking messages that are actually effective.
Your teen’s friends are the biggest influence, according to Dr. Samuel Kuperman, child and adolescent psychiatrist, University of Iowa.
Dr. Kuperman bases that on a recent national study on teen drinking he and colleagues conducted with more than 800 participants ages 14 to 17.
“We asked where they got their first drink from. They’re not getting it from parents; they’re getting it from friends,” he says.
An underage teen has to find a source for alcohol; if his best buddy has it, he’s more likely to have that first drink.
What’s more, teens who get their first drink from a friend are more likely to drink sooner earlier in life, according to the study results.
Unfortunately, those who start drinking at a younger age are more prone to alcohol abuse when they get older, according to other research.
“Delaying when you have that first drink can be protective. If you delay initial drinking from (age) 14 to 18, it has an effect,” says the psychiatrist.
You can exert your own influence by getting to know your adolescent’s friends.
“Get the kids over to the (your) house to see who your kids are hanging out with,” Dr. Kuperman says.
Your own attitude toward alcohol also carries weight, according to Robert Turrisi, professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State University.
Set the example you want your teen to follow.
“If teens see (their) parents walking around with a drink in their hand, they’re more likely to model,” Turrisi says.
Don’t be permissive.
“Some parents think that if kids have a drink at home it will take away the mystery and kids will be less likely to drink. That’s not true, according to the data,” Turrisi says.
He recommends becoming more engaged in your teen’s life.
“Monitor your kids. Really know what your kids are doing,” he says.
And talk about drinking.
“Ask, ‘why drink?’ Talk about alternatives to drinking,” Turrisi says.