Summer is in full swing and things are beginning to open back up… a little. Many of us will be enjoying the long-awaited backyard barbecue: One of the many great joys of the season! Things are undeniably different this year, though. In many ways, alcohol has become more easily accessible with many restaurants and stores offering home delivery. It may not seem like a big deal to allow your teen or their friends to have a drink or two under your supervision, but there is more at risk than drinking and driving. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Drinking alcohol increases the risk of physical injuries and accidents.
  • Providing alcohol to your child’s friend is against the law.
  • Impaired judgement from drinking alcohol can lead to violence and aggressiveness, not to mention poor decisions about risky behaviors like sexual activity.
  • Alcohol can alter brain development and increase the likelihood of alcohol dependence.

Many teens have a high level of maturity and are very responsible, but they still rely on parents and trusted adults for guidance. It is important that we keep lines of communication open and talk about the potential dangers of drinking. There are many ways to reduce teenage drinking. Here are a few:

  • Encourage activities that do not involve alcohol.
  • Do not have alcohol available or have alternatives.
  • Supervise parties to ensure alcohol is not available.
  • Get to know your children’s friends.

With every precaution in place, there is always a possibility that children will engage in activities like drinking- even when they are known to make otherwise healthy choices. Adolescence is well understood to be a time of growth when many changes take place. Some changes, however, may be warning signs for underage drinking:

  • Finding alcohol or smelling it in your child’s breath.
  • Change in friends.
  • Low energy, poor coordination, or slurred speech.
  • Mood changes or behavioral problems.
  • Loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy.

Because it is generally considered to be a socially accepted substance, alcohol use among youth is a serious national problem with consequences that can impact anyone. The concern is not isolated to certain families. It is a concern for everyone. To learn more about the health impacts of underage drinking and how to prevent it, visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.