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By Grace Wilson – May 12, 2020 –

Have you talked with your kids about the dangers of underage drinking? It can certainly be a difficult topic to navigate.

You may ask yourself all sorts of questions: When is the right time to have the conversation? How will it go? Will they think I’m accusing them of drinking alcohol? And here’s the big question: Will they even listen?

The truth is, our kids are hearing us whether they show us active listening skills or not.

Right now many of us are staying home and spending more time with our families during the pandemic. Parents have more opportunities to have a conversation about underage drinking with their kids. 

“Talk. They Hear You.” is an underage drinking prevention campaign developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  Approximately 88,000 Americans die from an alcohol-attributed cause each year. This makes alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

The goal of this campaign is to provide parents and caregivers with the resources to discuss the hard topics such as underage drinking and substance misuse. As parents, we play a very significant role in whether or not our children will experiment with drugs and alcohol. If we are equipped with the resources to tackle these tough conversations, we are helping set our children up to be drug and alcohol free.

Even if you have young children, it is never too early to start the conversation around alcohol and other substances. Simple, short conversations, not one that is long and drawn out, can be very helpful in keeping your child engaged and not tuning you out.

Remember, a conversation goes both ways, so make sure to give your child a chance to talk as well. These little talks can happen in the car, while watching TV, or at dinner. You should keep these conversations going as your child moves through the stages of adolescence and adapt the conversation to your child’s age. A conversation at the age of 8 will and should be different than when they are 16. It is also important to clearly state your rules and expectations around alcohol and other substances during these talks.

You can find more information about “Talk. They Hear You.” on the Youth First website at youthfirstinc.org. You will find information about the campaign, tips on having the conversation, different messages and ads about “Talk. They Hear You.”, and a link to the SAMSHA website for even more resources. It is important to take time and research the facts before you start talking with your child about substance use. In doing this, you will be better prepared for any questions they may ask.

Make the most of this time at home with your children and start the conversation about underage drinking.  

To be held tonight, Monday, October 21st, 6:00-8:00 pm
Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library, 200 S. E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Browning Room

Youth First, Inc. is hosting a town hall forum to increase community awareness on the effects social media has on the teen brain, especially when it pertains to substance use and its consequences. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018, 95% of teens reported they have a smartphone or access to one and 45% said they are online “almost constantly.”
Moderator Dennis Jon Bailey, WIKY Morning Show DJ, will guide a panel of local experts to provide insight to parents, youth workers, and other adults who want to know how social media is impacting substance use.
Panelists:
o Dr. James Schroeder, PhD, HSPP – Vice President of the Psychology Program, Evansville Easterseals Rehabilitation Center
o Lieutenant Monty Guenin – Commander, Vanderburgh County Drug Task Force, Evansville Police Dept.
o Brittnie Hughes – Social Emotional Learning Specialist (SELS), Department of Neuroeducation, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation
o Katie Omohundro, MSW, LCSW – Youth First School Social Worker, Vanderburgh County
o Lisa Hutcheson, MEd – Vice President for Policy and Programs, Mental Health America of Indiana & Director, Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (ICRUD)
Local teens will share the ins and outs of the most popular apps such as SnapChat, Instagram, and TikTok, along with advice about how adults can keep children and teens safe while online.

By Diane Braun, Oct. 3, 2018 –

The month of October brings Red Ribbon Week, an event supported by the National Family Partnership as an anti-drug campaign.  Since 1986, this campaign has brought awareness to the general public about the dangers of drug abuse, including alcohol, prescription drugs and marijuana.

Did you know the greatest influence on young people’s decision to begin drinking alcohol is the world they live in?  This includes their families, friends, schools, the larger community and society as a whole.  Alcohol use by young people is often made possible by adults.  After all, teens can’t legally buy alcohol on their own.

Alcohol is the most used and abused drug among teenagers in America.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 31.5 percent of all high school students in America report they have engaged in “binge drinking,” which is when someone consumes five or more drinks in one sitting.

On average 11,318 American youth ages 12-20 try alcohol for the first time every day.  Youth who began drinking alcohol by the 7th grade are more likely to have academic problems along with substance use and delinquent behavior in both middle and high school.  By the time they reach adulthood, it will often lead to criminal activity and violent crimes.

Youth who drink make this choice because they want to take risks or engage in risky behaviors that are taking place among their peer groups.  They might have less connection to their parents and more independence to use alcohol.  Alcohol might be a stress-reliever or they might simply have a lack of information about the dangers of alcohol.

The risks associated with underage drinking range from physical effects (such as hangovers) to death from alcohol poisoning. Major risks include exercising poor judgment to drive while impaired and engaging in risky behaviors.

Most importantly, a growing brain can be harmed by alcohol use. With the brain continuing to develop into the 20’s, damage done by alcohol can cause major problems.

What can a community do to change this?  If we create friendly, alcohol-free places where youth can gather, the pressure to use alcohol will diminish.  Providing programs, including volunteer work, where young people can grow, explore their options, succeed and feel good about activities without alcohol are proven to prevent use.

Educating young people on the dangers of “doing drugs” and showing what healthy choices can do to impact their lives is essential.  Providing resources to youth who are involved with underage drinking helps by letting them know that it’s never too late to stop the abuse and start making smarter choices.

Encourage young people to become involved in athletics and after-school activities such as clubs.  Create opportunities for older teens that have made the commitment to be drug-free to become mentors to younger students, showing by example how to make smart choices.

Parents, know your teen’s peer group.  Who are they spending time with?  What are they doing?

By focusing on the positives of prevention rather than scare tactics, youth will make decisions that will benefit them long-term without experiencing the effects of alcohol abuse.

By Diane Braun, April 17, 2018 –

Prom and graduation are two of the most exciting events in a teen’s high school experience.  It’s a time to celebrate the end of the school year and remember for the rest of their lives.

Unfortunately too often prom and graduation night end tragically for teens that die from drinking and driving or alcohol poisoning.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one in three deaths from alcohol-related incidents occurs during prom or graduation weekend.

Drug-Free Action Alliance has developed a public awareness campaign to provide parents with accurate information about the health risks of underage drinking and the legal consequences of providing alcohol to youth.  The campaign encourages parents and the community to send a unified message that teen alcohol consumption is not acceptable at prom and graduation time.  It is illegal, unsafe and unhealthy for anyone under age 21 to drink alcohol.

Here are the facts:

  • Parents who give alcohol to their teen’s friends under any circumstances, even in their own homes, are breaking the law.
  • Parents who knowingly allow a person under 21 to remain in their home or on their property while consuming or possessing alcohol can be prosecuted and everything associated with such a violation can be confiscated, including personal property.
  • Parents can be sued if they give alcohol to anyone under 21 and they, in turn, hurt someone, hurt themselves or damage property.

Parents play a major role in their children’s choices about alcohol and other drugs.  Underage use of alcohol is a serious problem that too often leads to harmful consequences for youth and their families.

Parents can help their teens and their friends remain safe by taking responsibility, getting involved and setting limits.  Always be clear about your expectations.

You may have talked many times about healthy choices, but it’s important to be very clear about no alcohol use before the age of 21.  Parents should discuss the dangers of a) drinking and driving and b) getting into a car with a drunk driver.

Present possible scenarios and what to do in these situations.  Set a curfew that you can be awake for.  Make sure teens are home at the agreed-upon time and you see them walk in the door.  Use that time to hear details of their evening.

If hosting a party, do not serve or allow alcohol.  An adult who provides alcohol to a minor is breaking the law and risking that teen’s life.  Indiana passed a social host liability law in 2014 which prohibits anyone from “furnishing property for the purpose of enabling minors to consume alcohol.”

Parents and teens are encouraged to make the decision before spring events to be safe, which means staying alcohol-free.  Make sure your teen understands your expectations and the consequences.  Healthy choices and good communication can create those happy memories that last a lifetime.

 

samhsa-family-eating-dinner

By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, Sept. 27, 2016 –

The beginning of the new school years marks the opportunity to set new goals for your family.

As a counselor, I have often encouraged parents to assess the needs of each young person in the family and help create environments and experiences that will help that child grow throughout that year. I’ve also encouraged parents to take stock of each season and look for new ideas that will build family together time, supporting family harmony.

There is value in reflecting and planning. Unfortunately, these steps often get overtaken by our hijacked family schedules due to heavy involvement in activities. I would encourage you to consider family experiences with fresh eyes.

If there was just one thing you could do to help your kids, would you do it? Truthfully, there is one important lifestyle habit that could be integrated every day to the benefit of everyone in the family, and it is easily within our grasp.

The answer is simple: Have family dinner time at least five times a week. Safeguard the time. Maintain it as a divine appointment.

During the last 22 years, thousands of American teens have been surveyed through the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia). The results are very compelling and readily overlooked by our manic interest in helping kids get ahead in whatever endeavor they undertake.

But consider these outcomes:Teens who have dinner three times a week or less with their families as compared with peers who have dinner five times or more with their families are:

  • Nearly three times likelier to say it is OK for a teen their age to use marijuana.
  • 3.5 times likelier to say it’s OK for teens their age to get drunk.

Favorable attitudes toward drug and alcohol use are a key risk factor for teens. Family meal time diminishes the risk greatly.

CASA Columbia reports that teens that have family dinners have stronger relationships with their parents and these relationships lead to greater trust. Put simply, teens that have high-quality relationships with mom and dad are less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke.

But what about mental health concerns? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that young people who engage in family meals have better socialization, and meal time enhances their mental health. As young people experience better relationships, their stress is diminished.

Another study in JAMA reported that students who have regular family mealtimes bounce back better from the impact of cyberbullying.

Young children also build vocabulary and ability to discuss topics when the family meal is present.  Anne Fishel, the co-founder of the Family Dinner Project at Harvard, notes that young children learn as many as 1000 uncommon words at meal time compared to 143 from parents reading story books aloud.

The Journal of Marriage and Family additionally reports that children who spend more time in family meals (and getting adequate sleep) have better results academically.

Family mealtimes have vast importance in the life of our kids. Get started today with some food, fun and conversations that will have lasting impact.

Sept. 26 is National Eat Dinner with your Family Day, and Youth First, Inc. is proud to celebrate this event with our community.

For more information about family dinners see thefamilydinnerproject.org.