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Talking to Your Kids About Underage Drinking

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In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month, The Century Council, the leading national not-for-profit funded by distillers dedicated to fighting drunk driving and underage drinking, released new survey that indicated that parents are the leading influence on their kid's decisions to not drink alcohol. Additionally, the survey demonstrates when it comes to talking about underage drinking, kids are actually listening to their parents when they discuss this serious, important, and sometimes awkward topic.

According to the research, parental influence with regard to underage drinking has increased significantly over the past 10 years. Today, 83% of youth ages 10-18 years old, cite parents as the leading influence in their decision to not drink at all, or not to drink on occasion, which is up 28% proportionally from 2003. Parents rank significantly higher than friends/peers and teachers which tied for second as the leading influence on their decisions about drinking at 33%. Rounding out the top six influencers are; punishment, brothers and sisters and law enforcement.

The survey also indicates significant improvement in the effectiveness of conversations between caregivers and kids on the topic of underage drinking since first examined in 2003.

According to the new research, parents are talking to their kids about underage drinking and they are listening. Nearly half of parents surveyed (46%), reported talking with their 10-18 year-old son or daughter four or more times in the past year about the dangers of underage drinking, and a nearly equal number (42%) of youth ages 10-18 reported speaking as frequently with their parents, grandparents, or another adult caregiver on the issue.

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Underage drinking often becomes a discussion topic when there is an incident that triggers the conversation. According to the study, the top three conversation starters for parents and youth today are: (1) a tragedy reported in the news (54% parents, 47% kids; (2) something seen on TV or a movie (49% parents, 41% kids) or; (3) someone else getting caught with alcohol or drinking (37% parents, 36% kids).

Additional conversation starters to help parents approach the topic of underage drinking as reported by parents include: curiosity about alcohol; learning to drive/driving the car and; going to a party or other social outing. Additional topics youth identify as a trigger to get them and their parents talking about underage drinking are: curiosity about alcohol; going to a party or other social activity; information from school; and curiosity about whether you have friends who are drinking.

Bottom line is that we have to keep these topics open. Our kids are listening and learning from us.

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