Prevention Presents: Just One Sip

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Just One Sip…Is it safe?
Eric Dale
Prevention Specialist

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, alcohol is the substance most frequently abused by teens. Its use leads to the most injuries and deaths from accidents, homicides, and suicides among teens. Family parties are common and many of these parties will have alcohol. In the comfort of family and friends, we may be tempted to give our children their first sip of alcohol. As it turns out, this could be a major mistake for your child’s future. Adults age 21 or older who started using alcohol before age 15 were almost 6 times as likely to have alcohol dependence or abuse than adults who first used alcohol at age 21. Children begin to have a positive outlook on alcohol as young as age 9, especially if their parents are drinkers. Most children look up to their parents and want to emulate them, so talking to your children early about alcohol is extremely important! 

Although it is legal to supervise your own under-aged child while they consume alcohol, it can be detrimental to your child’s future healthy habits. There is a good reason why the drinking age was moved from 18 to 21; a young person’s brain on average does not stop developing until age 25. The earlier the brain is introduced to alcohol, the more time it has to damage the brain. Many parents think their child will be exposed to underage drinking eventually, so exposing them to it under supervision is better; however, in reality most teens are not regular drinkers. In a national survey of 500,000 students, 70% of youths aged 12 to 20 haven’t had a drink in the last month. Therefore, the moniker that "everyone is doing it" does not hold true. The earlier we talk to our children about the dangers of underage drinking, such as the effects it can have on a developing body and decision making, the more beneficial it will be. 

Several studies have found that parents who are authoritative in communicating expectations with a give and take style with their children are more effective at keeping their children from alcohol abuse than those who are authoritarian, permissive, or disengaged. Don’t be afraid to have an actual conversation about alcohol and the effects it can have. See what your children have to say about it and what they know. Are they aware that it is one of the leading causes of unplanned pregnancy and domestic abuse? Do they understand it hinders the decision making process and negatively effects a developing brain and body? Instead of offering a sip, I encourage you to offer up some advice on why it might not the best idea for your child’s future. 



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