If you asked your teen to list the risks of underage drinking, what would they say? If you’re like many parents, the answers may surprise you.
As adults, it’s easy to assume teens understand the risks involved. But, what’s logical and obvious to us is often completely missed by teens. Their limited view of the world and the future causes them to miss essential information.
Covering All the Bases
To ensure they have all the facts, parents should fully cover the risks involved with underage drinking. As you discuss this important issue with your teen, be sure to include the following five areas. With the full picture, your teen will have a better understanding of the true risks they face with alcohol.
- PhysicalTeens typically feel invincible. Explain to them that drinking can harm their body. Research has shown that drinking during adolescence, while the brain is still developing, can have dire consequences. It can cause lasting impairments in brain functions. The alcohol can damage their memory, coordination, and motor skills. For girls, abusing alcohol can cause endocrine disorders during puberty. (The endocrine system affects heartbeat, bone and tissue growth and reproduction. Endocrine disorders include diabetes, thyroid disease and growth disorders.)
Binge drinking (having five or more drinks at a sitting for boys or four or more for girls) poses additional threats. What's more, a binge session can result in alcohol poisoning - something that can be fatal.
- EmotionalTeens may turn to alcohol to cope with pain and stress in their lives. It’s important they understand substance abuse creates more emotional turmoil rather than relieves it. Teens who drink are more likely to have depression and anxiety. They're more likely to be involved in violent behaviors, attempt suicide, and develop alcohol problems later in life.
- SocialTeens may view drinking as a normal part of their social interactions. They may see it as necessary to fit in socially. However, underage drinking frequently results in unhealthy social behaviors and extreme consequences. Teens who drink are more likely to engage in unprotected sex, have multiple sex partners, are more likely to be the victims of a violent crime, and are more likely to be in an alcohol-related accident. Under the influence of alcohol, teens frequently make decisions they end up regretting, from minor embarrassments to major life-altering events.
- LegalBecause underage drinking is so prevalent, your teen may not be concerned about its legal ramifications. They might assume no one is punished for this, viewing it as a choice, rather than a crime. The truth is, underage drinking is illegal. They can’t lawfully consume alcohol until they are 21 years old, and those who break this law do suffer penalties. Consequences can include criminal fines, mandatory community service, counseling classes, driver’s license suspension, and even jail time.
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