When the weather’s hot, some Iowans might pop a cold one to cool off, but this time of year especially, Iowa parents are encouraged to talk with their kids about the dangers of underage drinking. DeAnn Decker, director of the state health department’s Bureau of Substance Abuse, says during summer, the chances double a child will try alcohol for the first time.
“We want to get the message out that if parents talk, kids will listen,” Decker says. “Summer is a time when kids have much more freedom, more free time with their friends, more peers around them and more of a chance that they can have that opportunity to have alcohol accessible.”
She says parents should talk to their children early – as young as age nine – about the dangers of alcohol. There are a number of places online that offer tips on how parents can handle the topic and best reach their kids. “We have one on the Department of Public Health website which is: www.WhatDoYouThrowAway.org which is a great campaign they can go to and see the different things that you throw away if you drink alcohol and use drugs,” Decker says.
“It shows you can lose honor, respect, your life, your friends and your family.” The 2012 Iowa Youth Survey found consistent numbers from previous years showing kids do sample alcohol at an early age.
“It’s very noticeable that as they get older, they use alcohol,” Decker says. “It’s 6% of the 6th graders, 18% of the 8th graders and 48% of the 11th graders.” When asked the question: “How wrong would your parents/guardians feel it would be for you to drink beer, wine or hard liquor without their permission,” an all-grade average of 91-percent of students said wrong or very wrong.
Decker says studies show kids who think their parents would disapprove of using substances like drugs and alcohol are less likely to try them.