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    ..Saying NO to Alcohol

    Most adventurous teenagers will occasionally have a drink. The majority will experiment and stop, or continue to use alcohol casually without significant problems. Sadly, some will develop a dependency and become physically, emotionally, and socially destructive to themselves for many years. Some will die, and some will cause others to die. A person's best defense against teenaged alcoholism is a good offense! There are a number of steps people can take to help prevent a kid from crossing that line between experimentation and abusing alcohol:Give a kid the facts about alcohol. The "teachable years" of nine to eleven are probably the best time to start talking to your children. These excellent guides emphasize that people should give their teen's accurate information about alcohol. Simply telling them "not to drink" or that alcohol is evil does not work. Many teenagers drink as a dramatic way of asserting their independence from too demanding parents. A more positive approach is to tell young people that alcohol does have a place in society and then instruct them how to use it safely. Set a good example by being a positive role model. Research consistently shows that an adult's behavior has a more dramatic impact on young people than advice, and this is particularly true with alcohol use and abuse. Problem drinking by adolescents is most likely to occur when adults in the household use alcohol in excess. In addition, people who do not drink should know that their abstinence will not guarantee that a teen will not abuse alcohol. Point out the myths about alcohol portrayed in the media. Drinking is not an essential part of having fun, playing sports, or being "cool." Never make light of anyone getting drunk and reinforce the idea that this behavior is not an indicator of maturity. Keep the lines of communication always open. This will let the teen know that they can discuss any problems so that their issues can be remedied before getting worse. This is not always easy for people, since the adolescent wants all the privileges of being an adult without accepting any of the responsibilities. Make an agreement that your teen can call anytime ("no questions asked") for transportation home instead of getting into a car with a driver who has been drinking. Help teens feel good about themselves. People who have a strong self-image are better able to say "no" and withstand peer pressure. While the development of a teen's self-image begins long before adolescence, people can take measures to enhance their youngster's self-image. Seek out areas in which the teenager is talented or unique and stimulate their interest in them. Remember to always criticize the action rather than the teen to preserve their self-esteem and lessen the chances of repeated behavior. People should prepare themselves for the fact that their teen will eventually try alcohol. This experimentation is a fact of life and should not be considered a reflection of poor parenting. Decide in advance how to handle the situation. Monitor the teen's whereabouts. People should always know where their kids are when not in school. It is important to get to know your teen's friends and also their parents. Parents can combat teen drinking without making their teen a social outcast by joining other parents and having "alcohol-free" parties. Demand state legislators close loopholes that make it harder for minors to buy alcohol. Favor stronger laws that require parents in whose home underage drinking takes place and bartenders who serve teens liable for accidents caused by intoxicated youngsters. But remember, don't expect legislation to stop underage drinking. Prohibition did not work either. Help your child overcome peer pressure by developing effective decision making skills. Rather than giving advice or making demands, help adolescents in making decisions and anticipating the consequences. Teach your teen that saying "no" is a sign of maturity and that true friends will respect their decision. Encourage positive "addictions." Supporting a young person's involvement in hobbies, sports, the arts, and other activities can help prevent the teen from trying alcohol or other drugs out of sheer boredom. Despite their apparent physical health, teens frequently engage in behaviors that increase their risk of physical harm, jeopardize their future, and upset their parents. In the midst of our nation's war on drugs like cocaine and crack, everyone should place more attention on the rising tide of alcohol abuse by teenagers. Former Surgeon General Dr. Antonio Novello feels that "the true consequences of underage drinking go beyond crashes and cirrhosis of the liver. They include school dropouts, vandalism, theft, truancy, date rape, and death by overdose." It is unrealistic to think that alcohol use by teenagers will ever disappear, but parents can do a lot to significantly reduce adolescent alcohol abuse.
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