Steering kids away from alcohol can be as simple as 1 word: ‘Talk’

WASHINGTON — Parents absolutely can influence whether children drink, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

That’s why Fairfax County, Virginia, has launched a campaign called: “Talk. They hear you.”

“Parents are the No. 1 reason youth choose not to drink,” said Leonardo Espina, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board behavioral health supervisor for wellness and health promotion and prevention.

Some of what Espina recommends parents tell kids:

  • It’s important to you that they not drink.
  • It’s illegal.
  • It’s not good for them.
  • It affects grades, physical performance and can impact their long-term future.
  • You want to put them in a position to succeed.

Frame the conversation in a way that’s relatable to your child’s interests. “So if they engage in sports, you can tell them how it can affect their metabolic or physical development,” Espina said.

Parents and kids also should role-play how to turn down an offer to drink. Ask them: “What do you feel comfortable saying? What can you do in an uncomfortable situation?”

And practice. “Help the child to develop the strength and the mental memory to say, ‘Hey, I feel comfortable saying this in a situation,'” Espina said.

The best impression can be made not from one long talk, Espina said, but many over time.

According to Fairfax County Youth Survey data from the 2016—2017 school year, 16.1 percent of eighth-grade students had tried alcohol. By 12th grade, the number of kids who reported having tried alcohol jumped to 54.3 percent.

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