Every parent, wants the best for their child. As children enter their teen years, a new risk emerges, alcohol. Experimenting with alcohol at a young age often includes binge drinking, which can disrupt a teen’s life in a number of frightening ways. Since teens can’t be supervised at all times , it is important to speak to them early and often about the risks of alcohol and binge drinking.
What is binge drinking?
People are often confused about what constitutes binge drinking. It is defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting (or two hours) for men and four or more in one sitting for women.
Binge drinking is widely prevalent among teens. According to Alcohol Use and Abuse, a publication from Harvard, the average girl has her first drink by age 13, a typical boy has his by age 11. Studies have shown that while the pleasure center of the brain develops fairly early, the areas that are responsible for impulse control and decision making tend to not fully develop until young adulthood. As a result, teens are more likely to engage in binge drinking as they haven’t yet developed strong risk versus reward concepts.
Four things to teach your teen about binge drinking
The way in which a parent approaches the subject of alcohol use and binge drinking has a profound impact on how a teen will respond when presented with such information. Lay the groundwork by talking to your child about the matter from an early age. Be open and honest with them about the subject, including how you feel about it. When children perceive that their parents feel strongly about something, they are more likely to listen.
When speaking to your teen about binge drinking, make sure to discuss the following:
- Car accidents – Teens who engage in binge drinking are more likely to be involved in car accidents. Explain to your teen that among 15 to 20 year olds, alcohol is implicated in more than one-third of all driver fatalities.
- Risky behavior – Teens who abuse alcohol, including those who binge drink, are more likely to engage in risky behavior. Teens who have their first drink before the age of 21 are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, to be involved in violent behavior and to attempt suicide.
- Alcohol poisoning – Binge drinking often leads to passing out or blacking out, in which all memory of events that occurred while drunk is lost and even alcohol poisoning, is overdosing on alcohol, can occur. Alcohol poisoning can be very serious and can even cause death.
- Staying on track – Studies have shown that teens who abuse alcohol and binge drink may develop lasting impairments in their brain function, including motor skills, memory and coordination. Binge-drinking teens are eight times more likely to fall behind in school, to miss class, to damage property and to become injured. In other words, a teen’s life can be seriously sidetracked if they ignore the risks and decide to binge drink.
While speaking to your teen about binge drinking, consider your own experiences and family history. Genetics play a strong role in addictive behaviors, so it’s important to tell your teen if there is a family history of addiction. Set clear expectations as to how you expect your teen to deal with alcohol. Remain calm throughout the discussion, even if your teen says something upsetting. Don’t limit yourself to a single occasion,, talk with your teen often about alcohol and binge drinking to ensure that they stay on track in life.