FAMILY DINNERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
While it’s true that children often idolize sports heroes and celebrities, they also idolize YOU. As a parent or caregiver, you have the power to help shape their attitudes about drugs. One way to do that is by talking to them regularly about what is going on in their lives. Kids who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those who do not.
Talking to your child about drugs and alcohol doesn’t mean lecturing. In fact, there are many things you can do (or may already do!) to provide the type of environment that may keep your child from experimenting with drugs or alcohol. One is to spend more time with your child. A national survey about the importance of family dinners revealed that 18 percent of teens said they would like to spend more time with their parents
Family dinners are an excellent way to spend time with your child. And make no mistake—those family dinners matter. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week are almost four times as likely to have used tobacco, more than twice as likely to have used alcohol, and two and-a-half times as likely to have used marijuana. Imagine! Simply spending time with your children may make them less likely to try drugs or alcohol.
Family dinners don’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Think of simple, inexpensive ways to make the meal fun, such as eating a picnic meal in the back yard, having a contest to see who can create the best pizza, or setting up a burger bar with outrageous toppings. Enjoy the process, and spend the time together talking with your children about their day.
Simply being there for your child—day or night—is also helpful. A child who feels you are available will be more likely to come to you with questions about drugs, or challenges with peer pressure or other situations that make your child feel uncomfortable. It is especially important to be there for your child during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce, because the risk of drug use increases greatly during these times. As children advance from elementary school to middle school, for example, they face new social situations. They will be exposed to cigarettes and alcohol—if they haven’t been already— and friends may encourage them to try new things. Later, as they go from middle school to high school, they will face a larger variety of substances and have more of a desire to fit in or seem cool to their classmates.
Additionally, teens who attend religious services four or more times a month are less likely to have used tobacco (11 percent vs. 3 percent), consumed alcohol (27 percent vs. 13 percent), or used marijuana (15 percent vs. 5 percent) than those who attend such services less frequently or not at all.
Remember, preventing the first use prevents abuse, and preventing abuse prevents addiction. You can change your child’s future.
Risky Drinking Can Put a Chill on Your Summer Fun
Summer is a wonderful time for outdoor activities with family and friends. For many people, a day at the beach, on the boat, or at a backyard barbecue will include drinking alcoholic beverages. But excessive drinking and summer activities don’t mix. Drinking impairs both physical and mental abilities, and it also decreases inhibitions—which can lead to tragic consequences on the water, on the road, and in the great outdoors. In fact, research shows that up to 70 percent of all water recreation deaths of teens and adults involve the use of alcohol.
Swimmers can get in over their heads. Alcohol impairs judgment and increases risk taking, a dangerous combination for swimmers. Even experienced swimmers may venture out farther than they should and not be able to make it back to shore, or they may not notice how chilled they’re getting and develop hypothermia. Surfers could become over confident and try to ride a wave beyond their abilities. Even around a pool, too much alcohol can have deadly consequences. Inebriated divers may collide with the diving board, or dive where the water is too shallow.
Boaters can lose their bearings. According to research funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol may be involved in 60 percent of boating fatalities, including falling overboard. And a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.1 percent (approximately 4 to 5 drinks) is 16 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than an operator with zero BAC. According to the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. And if problems arise, intoxicated boaters are ill equipped to find solutions. For passengers, intoxication can lead to slips on deck, falls overboard, or accidents at the dock.
Drivers can go off course. The summer holidays are some of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road. When on vacation, drivers may be traveling an unfamiliar route or hauling a boat or camper, with the distraction of pets and children in the car. Adding alcohol to the mix puts the lives of the driver and everyone in the car, as well as other people on the road, at risk.
Stay hydrated and stay healthy. Whether you’re on the road or in the great outdoors, heat plus alcohol can equal trouble. Hot summer days cause fluid loss through perspiration, while alcohol causes fluid loss through increased urination. Together, they can quickly lead to dehydration or heat stroke. But this doesn’t have to happen. At parties, make at least every other drink a nonalcoholic one. If you’re the host, be sure to provide plenty of cold, refreshing nonalcoholic drinks to keep your guests well hydrated.
Summer will end, but consequences can endure. You can have fun in the sun and still be safe. Avoiding beverages that cause mental and physical impairment while piloting a boat, driving a car, exploring the wilderness, and swimming or surfing is a good place to start. Be smart this summer—think before you drink, and make sure that you and your loved ones will be around to enjoy many summers to come.