Help Your Preteen Say No to Alcohol - MetroFamily Magazine
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Help Your Preteen Say No to Alcohol

by Gracie Moyers

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

“I started drinking when I was 10. Some of my friends turned me on to it. I didn’t like the taste, but I was curious and I felt grown up.” [14 year old]

It may be hard to believe that middle school children have concerns about alcohol, but this story isn’t unusual. Although seventh grade is the average in Oklahoma for alcohol experimentation, many students say there is pressure from their peers to use alcohol as early as fourth grade. It isn’t just the “bad kids” who drink. Boys and girls from all economic levels and backgrounds are affected by the pressure and curiosity about drinking. The most frequent reason given for using alcohol is to fit in and belong.

Talk About It

If you are a parent of a preteen child, you have a special opportunity. Your child is in that in-between age—old enough to understand many adult subjects, yet still young enough to willingly accept guidance from parents. It’s a good time to talk with your child about alcohol and other drugs. Choose a teachable moment—a relaxed time when you can bring up the subject.

A good opportunity might be when alcohol is being served or while watching drinking situations on TV. Explain to your child the reasons why it is okay for most adults to drink reasonable amounts of alcohol and definite reasons why a child should not. Talk about the dangers and problems of preteen use. Create a knowledge base upon which your child can make responsible choices. Set clear, firm guidelines about what is acceptable in your home.

Model Responsible Behavior

Whether they realize it or not, some parents teach their children how to drink. After a rough day at work, a parent comes home and reaches for an alcoholic drink to relax. The first time kids have stress or drama, they are looking for a way to feel better. They may see alcohol as an answer.

Think about how your attitudes toward alcohol might shape your child’s attitudes. Strive to model responsible alcohol usage around your children. Also, be aware of how present alcohol is in your home. While there is nothing wrong with keeping alcohol in your home for responsible use, don’t make alcohol as readily available to your children as the milk in the refrigerator.

Education and Support

Know the facts about the dangers of alcohol use and steps to help your
preteen say No. The following are helpful resources:

  • Edmond’s Parents Helping Parents holds confidential meetings. ParentsHelpingParents.info.
  • The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, odmhsas.org/Prevention.htm.
  • A Chance to Change Foundation offers free education programs and services. 405-840-9000, AChanceToChange.org.
  • Parents: The Anti-Drug website provides information and downloadable resources. TheAntiDrug.com.
  • Mothers Against Drunk Drivers website includes information on underage drinking. MADD.org.
  • StopAlcoholAbuse.org is a source of federally-funded news and information about alcohol abuse, including downloadable resources.

When to Get Help

Watch for some common signs of drinking in your children, including: a drop in school performance; severe mood swings; withdrawal from family; change in friends; secretiveness; attempts to mask breath; frequent complaints of feeling sick; slurred speech; bloodshot eyes. If you think your child is drinking (or experimenting with other harmful drugs), your pediatrician, family doctor, school counselor, or mental health professional can provide guidance.

Gracie Moyers is a Licensed Professional Counselor within the Offices of Paul Tobin & Ann Benjamin in Edmond.

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