Speakers Friday at a forum aimed at curbing underage drinking urged parents to initiate talks with teenagers early about the dangers of alcohol abuse and continue them often.
“It’s important for parents to know that study after student has consistently shown that kids who are permitted to drink in their (parents’) homes drink more often and drink more outside the home when their parents are not around,” said Jen Jordan, a member of the Draw the Line Lawrence coalition and prevention coordinator at DCCCA.
A crowd of about 75 people attended the event at The Granada, 1020 Mass., and Jordan said national statistics show college students are less likely to drink and binge drink if their parents follow guidelines from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and have consistent and positive communication with them before they reached college.
Here are other tips participants in a panel discussion gave to parents:
• Have the talk, ideally when your child is in junior high school.
“Don’t ever assume that they don’t need that talk or that they don’t need to hear what you think and how you believe,” said Dustin Chase, a Lawrence police neighborhood resource officer. “Let them know that even if they do mess up, you’re going to be there for them.”
“Have this discussion with other parents of your kids’ peer group, like how they monitor what happens at their house,” said Nancy Renfro, a Lawrence parent.
• Know where your kids are going and who they are with, especially on weekends.
“Communication is paramount. Stay involved in their lives and know what they’re doing on a weekend,” said Jim Spence, an Kansas Alcoholic Beverage Control agent.
• Try to balance a trusting relationship with your child as well.
“My mom sat me down and said this is what it does to your body. This is what can happen, and I don’t condone that,” said Tommy Kitchen, a Lawrence High School senior. “And I respect my mom enough to know that underage drinking is not appropriate.”
• Make sure they are aware of the consequences.
“You might be the next joke on Facebook. There’s sexual assault. There’s all kinds of things that happen that normally wouldn’t happen if you made choices not to drink,” said Elizabeth Scheib, another Lawrence parent.
“The earlier age one starts drinking, the more likely they are to develop an abuse or dependent-type situation,” Ashley Countryman, clinical coordinator of addiction services for DCCCA.
John Drees, community education specialist for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said LMH’s emergency room sees effects of alcohol abuse often from chronic abuse to alcohol poisoning to potential sexually assaults or other injuries due to fights and even dangerous accidents.
“You just pick a night in Lawrence, and it’s happening every night,” Drees said.
Chase said in addition to criminal penalties for being a minor in possession, binge drinking increases the risk people won’t practice sound judgement and could drive drunk or even walk home alone in an area their unfamiliar with, which is also dangerous. Adults who provide a place for underage drinking also run the risk of being prosecuted under social hosting laws.