Biggest Problem in Teen Drinking: Parents

Teens often celebrate graduation and the start of summer with parties. In an effort to maintain control, some parents may decide to provide alcohol in the safety of their own homes. But is that really the solution?

According to the Texas Alcohol Beverage Commission (TABC), in 2008, 63 percent of students from seventh to 12th grade said they had already consumed alcohol. The same report said that when minors 10 to 18 years old were asked how they were given the alcohol, 65 percent reported family and friends were the leading source.

A 2014 Texas School Survey of sixth- through 12th-graders conducted by Texas A&M’s Public Policy Research Institute reported: In the past 30 days, 9.3 percent of all students and 17.9 percent of seniors said they had binge drunk (five or more drinks at one time).

“There’s no way to really teach someone to drink moderately,” said Mary Tripp, of Freedom from Chemical Dependency Prevention [FCD] Works. “[Our survey shows] there were still a similar amount of consequences for those who were drinking with their parents’ permission vs. without. So even though a parent thinks they’re helping and protecting their child, they’re not actually providing much benefit by “teaching” them to drink. And I’m using teaching in quotations.”

Know the Law

For parents thinking about hosting a party for teens in their homes: unless it’s your child, it is against state law to make alcohol available to a person younger than 21 years old, even in your own residence, even with the parent’s permission, according to TABC. Failure to adhere to this law could mean a fine up to $4,000, up to one year in jail, and a suspended driver’s license.

“If we encounter anyone that provides alcohol, we file a Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor offense against them; it’s a Class A Misdemeanor,” said Dallas Police Sgt. Alfred Nunez.

While Texas law allows a minor to drink an alcoholic beverage while in the presence of a parent, if the child leaves their parent they can be charged with minor in posession, a Class C Misdemeanor, Nunez said.

According to a 2011 Dallas Morning News investigation, from 1999 to 2009, 850 juveniles under the age of 17 were ticketed for a charge of minor in consumption, minor in possession, or minor DUI in Dallas County.

In 2014, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, 43 juveniles under 17 were arrested for DUI in Dallas County.

An Open Records Request made by Preston Hollow People in March to get ticket and arrest records for minor in possession and minor in consumption for Preston Hollow ZIP codes from 2013-2015 was not fulfilled in time for press.

How to prevent:

Education can be the first step to preventing minors from taking to the bottle at a young age. Dallas ISD starts educating early. The Dallas Police runs Blue in the School for fourth-grade students.

“Basically, they talk about drugs, they talk about a lot of different things,” said Arthur Kramer Elementary counselor Keri Gibson. “They come for four sessions and so they’ll talk about drug awareness and peer pressure, and they’ll talk about even self esteem and picking the correct friends.”

The district also celebrates Red Ribbon Week and does a BuzzFree PROMises Dress & Tux giveaway for high school students who make a pledge to stay sober on prom night, according to the district’s Psychological Services Department.

For teens struggling with alcohol or drugs, DISD has a partnership with Phoenix House, a nonprofit rehab facility, and a few other community resources. At Phoenix house, students are able to enter an academic credit recovery program if they had failed out of a semester.

FCD Prevention Works – which has been hired to educate students at Hockaday, Episcopal School of Dallas, St. Mark’s, Greenhill, Shelton, Yavneh Academy, and Parish Episcopal – strongly urges the schools it works with to put their instructors in front of the parents.

“We also find very often that parents need as much education as the students,” said Tripp, the client relations officer for Texas. “Any time you introduce a substance to a developing brain, it’s really putting the brain at risk for things like addiction or other issues. So we’re often educating parents about why we’re not a ‘just say no,’ we’re a delay. Delay that use until your brain is done cooking.”

Founded in 1976 by a man in recovery from alcoholism, FCD has gone on to work in 65 countries, primarily with private schools. Their curriculum is based on data it collects and research from groups such as the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation, one of its partners.

During a four-day intensive program FCD runs in October at Hockaday, girls meet in small and large groups in closed-door meetings with FCD instructors, said upper school counselor Judy Ware. All FCD instructors are required to be in recovery from addiction.

“A lot of people will ask: Why hire people in recovery? And it’s really that personal piece to it,” Tripp said. “Every single one of them is doing this because they want to stop other kids from going down a route that they did. They’ll talk to you about what they’ve lost, what they have to do every day to keep themselves on the clean and sober track.”

FCD performs in-depth surveys of students all over the world, then analyzes and presents the information to students. They can break down the research to include only a specific school or region. The research shows the students that their perceptions about how much and how often their peers drink are inaccurate, Tripp said.

When speaking to parents, FCD also has to do a fair amount of debunking of “social norms” and perceptions, Tripp said.

“When we say educate parents … it’s nobody’s fault that they don’t have the information,” Tripp said. “The brain science is really continuing to evolve and develop.”

Tripp wants parents to understand how impactful their actions and words can be regarding their teen’s decision about alcohol.

“Really remember how powerful your role still is, even though they don’t want you to know that. You are still a big influence,” Tripp said. “[I want parents to keep] delaying that use and helping kids navigate through the choices with informed healthy decision making.”

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