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Mālama Ola Minute: Five tips to teach kids the dangers of underage drinking

April 7, 2022

After two years of restrictions and limited interactions, many are anxious to get out and resume the activities once enjoyed. While being socially connected with friends and family can boost one’s mental health, it is important for everyone to be makaʻala and make pono choices when in a group setting where alcohol is involved.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and precedes a time in Hawaiʻi when ‘ohana may attend social gatherings where alcohol is prevalent and readily accessible, like end-of-year celebrations and graduation parties. The next few weeks serve as a crucial period for parents and guardians to educate children about the hazards related to underage alcohol use.

Research shows that kids who learn about the dangers of underage drinking from their parents and caregivers are up to 50 percent less likely to experiment than kids who don’t. In addition, alcohol use during teenage years can interfere with normal adolescent brain development and contributes to a range of acute consequences such as injury, overdose and death. If you haven’t started having vital conversations about alcohol use and the risks of underage drinking with your kids, the following conversation goals are sure to help:

Make it known how you feel about underage drinking
Over 80% of young people ages 10 to 18 say their parents are the leading influence on their decision to drink or not drink. They really are listening, and it’s important that you send a clear and strong message.

Show that you care about your child’s happiness and well-being
Young people are more likely to listen when they know you’re on their side. Try to reinforce why you don’t want your child to drink – not just because you say so, but because you want your child to be happy and safe. The conversation will go a lot better if you’re working with, and not against, your child.

Be a good source of information about alcohol
Help ensure that your child makes informed decisions about drinking, by sharing reliable facts about the risks. Establish yourself as a trustworthy source of information; this may decrease the likelihood of your child learning about alcohol from friends, the internet, or the media.

Build your child’s skills and strategies for avoiding underage drinking
Even if your child doesn’t want to drink, peer pressure is a powerful thing. It could be tempting to drink just to avoid looking uncool. To prepare your child to resist peer pressure, help them build their assertive communication skills.

It’s okay to ask for support
If you or a loved one is in need of help, there are resources available. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national helpline at 1-800-662-4357. The helpline offers confidential and free help for substance use treatment and support in your community.


Hawaiʻi Partnership to Prevent Underage Drinking
Underage drinking in Hawaiʻi: Know the facts and consequences

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Talk. They Hear You.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Learn About Alcohol Use Disorder and Ways to Get Help

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