By STACEY FIELDING
WASHINGTON TERRACE — Let’s keep alcohol away from teenagers. Simple task, right?
What can be simple — and something that could make all the difference in the world — is to have an open conversation, and set boundaries and rules, with our children before they enter junior high school. That was part of the message Thursday night at Bonneville High School as part of a Parents Empowered discussion.
Jeanette Herbert, First Lady of Utah, spoke on behalf of the campaign and said “some children start binge drinking during the sixth grade, and parents usually talk with them two years too late.”
According to the 2007 SHARP Survey prepared by Bach Harrison, L.L.C., which was displayed at the event, approximately 78 percent of children whose parents affirmatively assert an “absolutely no” approach to underage drinking will choose to never consume alcohol in their lifetime.
“Parental involvement is really the key,” Herbert said. “When a child feels safe in their home they will automatically start to bond with their parents, and then when the time comes for the parents to talk to their kids about not drinking they will be more receptive to their parents’ stance and ground rules.”
Many of us may not realize that some children in junior high may be consuming alcohol, but it may be safe to say most teens will be introduced to alcohol or hear about it once they enter high school.
Deputy Chad Allen, Resource Officer at Bonneville High, said alcohol consumption has upward spirals and downward spirals. Unfortunately, he believes underage drinking is on the incline right now.
“There have been incidents here at BHS where students have come to school drinking, or intoxicated,” Allen said. “I don’t think underage drinking will ever go away, but I think bringing awareness to the parents and community can really help.”
Allen talked about the new mixing of drinks (energy drinks with alcohol) have been a big reason for the increase in alcohol use. “I think all the new drinks that are being made these days adds a element of curiosity,” Allen said. “Overall, underage drinking has been a real big problem.”
Luke Bodensteiner, Executive Vice President of athletics for the U.S. Ski Team, said he oversees more than 200 athletes while they are away from their parents for weeks and months at a time.
“It is amazing to see how my athletes look up to their parents, imitate them without trying, and seek for their approval,” Bodensteiner said. “Sometimes parents don’t believe their child looks up to them, trust me I witness it everyday, they do.”
For that reason, many of the panelists said, parents play a big role in their child’s future choices. It is never too early to set ground rules, be open for conversation, and let your child know that alcohol use/abuse can damage in their life.
“There are many reasons the legal age is 21,” Herbert said. “I applaud the underage teens who choose not to drink, it’s one of the best decisions you will ever make in your life.”
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