Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) want parents to know that they have more influence than they think and they need to use their influence before it’s too late. The group urges parents to make it absolutely clear that drinking before age 21 is not an acceptable choice. When parents send a strong message that drinking is not okay, kids are much less apt to drink before they’re legal.
The group conducted a survey of 663 high school students showed that youth whose parents tell them drinking is “completely unacceptable” get the message, and are 80 percent less apt to engage in underage drinking compared to students whose parents don’t lay down the law.
Just eight percent of surveyed teens whose parents said underage drinking was an unequivocal “no” went ahead and drank anyway. By contrast, 47 percent of students whose parents suggested drinking was somewhat or completely acceptable were actually drinking. MADD says that parents must take a firm and clear stand that underage drinking is a 100 percent “NO” if they want kids to stay away from alcohol. A mixed message translates as a “yes” to young people.
The results of the MADD survey were released in conjunction with the start of Alcohol Awareness Month. It’s also the time when many students and families are starting to make plans for graduation parties and proms. Both of these events are occasions when young people may decide it’s acceptable to indulge in drinking. These are also notoriously at-risk periods for teen drivers.
Better To Wait On Drinking
The good news is that young people who go ahead and wait until they are 21 to start drinking reap long-term benefits as well. They do a better job of handling the tremendous responsibility that comes with consuming alcohol when they are of age. Compared to youth who start drinking by age 15, those who wait are 80 percent less apt to have an alcohol abuse or dependency problem in adulthood. And compared to youth who begin drinking by 14, those who wait are 70 percent less apt to get behind the wheel and drive when they do overdrink.
The terrible truth is that 4,700 lives are lost annually because of underage drinking. Parents can save lives – their child’s and others’ – when they draw a line in the sand on the subject of alcohol.
Another protection for kids is having parents who make the effort to know where their child is going and who they’ll be with when they take off for the evening. Adolescents are trying to assert their independence, so they often rebel against a parent’s efforts to keep track, but parents still need to make the effort. If there are older friends in their social circle, these could be people willing to buy alcohol for underage youth.
Parents can’t control what their child does as they grow up and gain some independence, but that doesn’t mean that they should give up and give in too soon. Adolescents hear what their parents say about alcohol. They can tell if parents are unwilling to make it a point of contention and will take that as permission to go ahead and drink.
Parents who say “no” to underage drinking are not guaranteed that kids will do what they say. But the odds are great that they will.