Today is "PowerTalk 21" day, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving event, inspiring parents to be their chid's primary advisor in saying "no" to underage drinking. A free webinar on MADD's web site (www.madd.org) kicks-off 21 days of awareness around the state, including several Power of Parents programs to equip moms and dads with tools to start these crucial conversations. "It is actually proven to reduce underage drinking by nearly 30 percent, as well as improve communication between a teen and a parent," says Allison Champlin of MADD Connecticut. During Alcohol Awareness Month, the nonprofit organization hopes to increase participation in this important program.
"When you come, it's not admitting that your child has a problem. It's simply…gaining more information for you to utilize when talking with your teens," says Champlin, referencing newly released data based on a national survey of high school students. "Teens whose parents promote underage drinking as completely unacceptable are actually 80 percent less likely to drink than their counterpoints." The 30-minute program and take-home handbook provide phrases to inspire a connection with a youngster, such as: "Let's eat dinner together tonight." Also, ways to be a role model: "I'll drink tea with my dinner, I am driving." When kids are constantly bombarded with messages from TV shows, movies and music, parents can't rely on the teachers in health class to have the tough talks.
Based on their child, parents can pinpoint the right age to begin this dialogue but experts say, start young. "The reality is you want to get to the kids before they develop bad habits," says Principal Dan Levy of Hamden Middle Schoo,l which is hosting the parent workshop, as well as a corresponding assembly for 7th and 8th graders this week. "It definitely sends the message to students that they do need to be careful and they do need to be aware." And, the statistics are shocking. "We know nationally that teens are beginning to experiment with alcohol at age 13, however, in the state of Connecticut, it's age 11," says Champlin. MADD advises, no mixed messages, such as the occasional sip of liquor. Also, no "supervised" drinking parties when a parent is home. Each year, 4,700 youths die, not just in drunk driving incidents, but also as a result of alcohol-related poisoning, drownings and falls. "It's something that can be very scary and very tragic, unfortunately, for a family to have to go through," says Champlin. "Not to mention the legal ramifications and civil ramifications."
Prom and graduation are right around the corner, occasions when teens are often tempted to drink alcohol. But, it's critical for parents to talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking, all year.
To see the Power of Parents program watch today's Fox CT Morning News.