Parents are the Key!


At the 2012 STEPS Community Forum, Sue Saucier, Director of Youth Services in Southington revealed the results of the Search Institute’s Attitudes and Behaviors Survey taken by all 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students in November 2011. The most alarming and prevalent statistic in the categories of risk-taking behaviors was no surprise, and almost identical to the data collected from 2009; under-age alcohol use. Not only was this statistic a large percentage of Southington students who reported using alcohol within the last 30 days, but the percentages increased by grade level. 4% of 7th graders reported using alcohol with the last 30 days; 14% of 9th graders and finally, 42% of all 11th grade students.

We can celebrate that most young people in Southington do not drink, but we must remember that a parent’s disapproval of under-age drinking is the key reason a child will choose not to drink.

The statistics present a cry for a solution to get these percentages to decrease and to keep our youth safe and making healthy life choices. One of the best and simplest ways to prevent underage drinking or any risk-taking behavior is by talking to youth openly and honestly about the dangers of alcohol use, the realities of the law and alternatives to safe fun.

But how do you go about starting a discussion on drinking? There is a certain fear involved with these conversations; a hesitation. When should I begin having these conversations with my kids? How much information is too much information? My kids aren’t even drinking. Isn’t it a little early to be concerned about drinking? Well, not at all. The reality is in the statistics – this is the age when some children begin experimenting with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

The idea is to act now and speak now – because keeping quiet about this topic could give youth the impression that under-age drinking is okay. Sue Walbert, Prevention specialist at Wheeler Clinic, is also the Chairperson of the STEPS Parent Committee has organized a “Parents are the Key” guide providing suggestions on how parents can talk to their kids about drinking and develop skills that you can use no matter your child’s age. Each section provides prevention skills for different ages and stages of development; from preschool to high school.

One website on how parents make a difference expressed that these conversations are “not easy” because “as children approach adolescence, friends exert a lot of influence. Fitting in is a chief priority for teens and parents often feel shoved aside.” However, study after study shows that even during the teen years, parents have enormous influence on their children’s behavior,” and kids will listen.

STEPS and the Parent Committee encourage you to view the full PDF guide or view the particular PDF geared towards your child’s age range. Click here to view! Also, please visit our PARENTS page on the STEPS website!

Dr. Erardi was quoted in his closing remarks at the STEPS Community Forum on March 7th, 2012 encouraging parents and kids to have the “difficult conversation.” Ask questions, talk about the realities and don’t shy away from uncomfortable discussions – they’re as important as ever.

For another great resource on prevention, click here.