Underage drinking: Tips for "the talk"

With students back to school for about a month, and tailgating and party season in full swing, this could be the perfect time to talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking. Here is some helpful advice on how to deal with the touchy subject.

"She was 17 her name was Taylor Meyer," says Kathie Meyer Sullivan who lost her daughter to binge drinking.

Pictures are all Kathie Meyer Sullivan has left of her daughter.

"She got together with a bunch of friends of hers and ended up drinking for the night," explains Sullivan

Taylor was drunk and wandered away from her friends. Three days later she was found dead, face down in a couple feet of water.

"She was supposed to do a lot more than that," says Sullivan.

Overall about 5,000 kids die each year because of underage drinking. 52-percent of teens have consumed alcohol by the eighth grade. And a study shows out of the 20 million alcoholics in America, more than half started drinking as teens.

Psychologist Deborah Day says it's important kids know the consequences.

"They're not prepared for the impact of drugs and alcohol on their systems," says Licensed Psychologist Dr. Deborah Day.

Talking to teens about underage drinking can be tricky. So, here are some tips the Mayo Clinic recommends.

While teens may think drinking will make them popular and give them a high, let them know it's a depressant that can lead to sadness and anger too.

And get ready to answer tough questions about your own drinking habits. Consider sharing a story about a negative consequence your drinking caused.

Kathie has shared her daughter's deadly story with kids in more than 100 schools.

"I let them know, Taylor didn't die of a brain tumor,” says Sullivan. “She died because of poor choices surrounding alcohol."

Poor choices she hopes other teens won't make.

The three leading causes of death for 15 to 24-year-olds are car crashes, homicides and suicides; alcohol is a leading factor in all three.

Underage drinking: Tips for "the talk"
REPORT #1917

STATISTICS ON UNDERAGE DRINKING: Youths in the United States use and abuse alcohol more than any other drug, including tobacco. Despite the law prohibiting the consumption of alcohol by individuals not yet 21 years of age, people between the ages of 12 to 20 consume 11% of all the alcohol consumed in the United States. Even more disconcerting is that 90% of the alcohol consumed by 12 to 20 year olds will be in the form of binge drinking and underage drinkers tend to consume more drinks on one occasion then most adult drinkers. (Source: www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets)

EFFECTS OF UNDERAGE DRINKING: Beginning to drink before learning and understanding how to do so responsibly can create dire consequences for those underage drinkers. Youths who drink alcohol are more likely to experience problems at home and at school, as well as physical and social issues. They are at a higher risk to have unplanned and unprotected sexual encounters, and there is also a higher risk of physical and sexual assault. Drinking underage also makes youths more likely to experience legal problems such as being arrested for DUI or possession of alcohol by a minor. The most severe consequence is that these youths could possibly kill themselves or others in an accident, car crash, or from alcohol poisoning. (Source: www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets)

MORE TIPS FOR PREVENTION: There are many things parents and educators can do to help prevent youths from drinking.

* Discourage violation of alcohol rules by consistently enforcing them.
* Provide and promote multiple venues where adolescents can get together with their friends.
* Provide them with the developmentally appropriate knowledge, skills, and motivation to resist peer and other pressures to drink.
* Recognize and identify when a youth has a problem with alcohol use and assist them in finding professional or medical help.
* Make a special effort to be a mentor and confidant to your children/students; especially when they are going through times of stress from social transitions and increasing responsibility.
(Source: www.surgeongeneral.gov)

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