Guest Op Ed: Back to School; Time to Talk

BACODA headeIt’s the season of Back to School. It’s a time of preparation, buying new clothes and school supplies and making sure that your children have all the tools they need to have a great school year. During all those preparations did you talk to your kids about not using drugs or alcohol? It’s never too late, and it’s always an important conversation to have.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), children are more at risk for drug and alcohol use during times of transition, such as the transition from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school. According to the 2012 Texas School Survey, 36.2% of eighth graders have tried alcohol at least once. That figure jumps to 47.7% by ninth grade, an increase of more than 30% in one year. The transition from junior high to high school is clearly a high-risk time for teens. The stress of new academic expectations and increased social pressure, combined with more opportunities to encounter drugs for the first time make children in these transition years more vulnerable to trying drugs or alcohol. Now that your children are back to school, they may be facing more social pressure from peers to experiment with different substances.

Your opinion still matters. A variety of research shows that teenagers cite parental disapproval as the number one reason they do not use drugs or alcohol. Make sure your teens know where you stand on this issue. Talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking. Arm yourself with knowledge and be sure to stress that it’s about more than just the risks of drinking and driving. Other consequences of underage drinking include increased risk of academic failure, violence, injury, risky sexual behaviors, sexual assault, and death. Explain that you do not approve of underage drinking because it is dangerous and illegal. Know where your teenager is at all times and what they are doing. Encourage them to call you at any time if a safe ride home is needed.

These tips are important for all parents, whether your child is in a transitional year or not. Keep the lines of communication open with your child and help them make healthy choices.

For more information on how you can help prevent underage drinking in your community, visit www.bacoda.org or contact coalitions@bacoda.org.

Southeast Harris County Community Coalition is a project of the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol (BACODA). BACODA, a United Way Agency, is a community-based substance abuse prevention organization that provides sustained leadership and support for the Coalition. BACODA has provided comprehensive prevention/intervention services since 1974.

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