Diligently watch for underage drinking

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To the editor:
Summer break is here, with carefree days of fun and freedom from the responsibilities and regimentation of the school day. This week is also National Prevention Week, designed to remind us how powerfully we can all make a difference in preventing substance abuse and promoting overall mental health and well being, and today’s emphasis is on underage drinking.
When this topic comes up, most of us immediately think about the dangers of drunk driving and car crashes. But underage drinking is much more than a highway safety issue, and quite often its impact is not so readily visible. For instance, did you know that youth who begin drinking alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some point in their life compared to those who wait until age 21? Or that nearly one in four Kentucky 12th graders and one in five 10th graders report not having been able to recall their behavior after using alcohol or other substances?
For our young people, the freedoms of summer bring new and different opportunities for growth but these freedoms also bring greater risk. What can you do? Talk openly with your kids about no-alcohol rules for them and set clear expectations. Otherwise, they may take your silence to mean that it’s ok or not a big deal if they drink. And be aware of blocks of time when adult supervision of your child is less constant or direct. Research shows that kids are more at risk for alcohol use during the school year while alone from 3 to 6 p.m., so during the summer that window of risk may be open even wider. Call, text, drop by during the workday or come home early on occasion. Staying in touch with your kids sends them the message that you love them, and having involved, connected parents is a very powerful influence on a young person’s decision to remain alcohol-free.
For more information on local underage drinking prevention efforts and resources for parents, please contact:
Lois Gross