Alcohol and Tweenagers: More of a Problem than You Think
It has been pretty common for high school kids to at least try alcohol once while they are still in school – no one likes it, but it isn’t shocking either.
What is shocking is that more and more tweens are consuming alcohol and as a result, more tweens are being treated for alcoholism than ever before.
The National Institute of Health reports that kids between 13 and 15 are at a “high risk” to begin drinking. In fact 26 percent of eighth graders, 40 percent of tenth graders, and 51 percent of high school seniors admitted to drinking alcohol within a month of the survey.
But that’s not all.
A full 16 percent of those eighth graders reported that they had been binge drinking at least once in the two weeks prior – and the percentage of tenth and twelfth graders was even higher. There aren’t a lot of studies to be found on younger kids drinking, but a California Student Survey cites that 12 percent of seventh graders had had a full drink in the week before the survey.
That’s scary. If they are getting drunk in seventh grade, then you have to wonder when they started drinking.
Kids get started drinking in a variety of ways. With most households being dual income, kids have a lot of time when they are unsupervised and on their own. Even if there isn’t alcohol in their own home, there will be a friend whose parent’s liquor cabinet is unlocked.
Peer pressure is hard to resist for most kids. In some cases they had no intention of taking a drink but their friend or older sibling was doing it, so they did, too. Kids at this age like to be a part of a group and will likely follow the leader at least once.
Some kids will bring a small flask to school and then it becomes exciting and daring to do something so risky between classes.
Be sure that you talk to your kids about peer pressure, sex, alcohol and drugs by the time they are eight or nine. While you may think this is very early, there are kids that are involved in those adult behaviors even at this young age.
Let them know that they can come to you with any problem and you will talk about it with them. However, once you say that you have to follow through. Too many kids get that speech and then the first time they come to a parent after they have messed up, screaming and name calling ensues. You are the adult – remain in control.
There are things you can do to reduce the risk of your child drinking, but realistically there are some kids that are going to have to try everything no matter what you do. It can be devastating to the parent who did “all the right things” to find out that Junior messed up.
Try not to take it personally. Give yourself time to calm down before you talk to your child and then be willing to listen to what he has to say. Keep the lines of communication open while being clear that the behavior is not acceptable.
California Student Survey (.pdf)