Parents' Drinking Tales Encourage Teen Alcohol Use

Filed under: In The News

glass of beerWe all know it's important to talk to our kids about alcohol, but be careful what you tell them: Regaling your kids with tales of your drunken college days will only convince them that it's OK to drink.

Just ask 17-year-old Chelsea Lynn Jurman. She was curious about the connection between how parents talked about their drinking and what kids learned from their stories, so she decided to find out. Jurman's award-winning research project had a startling conclusion: kids whose parents talked positively about their own underage drinking were more likely to drink themselves.

A senior at Rosyln High School in New York, Jurman served as a peer drug educator. Her work helping others understand and explore their feelings about alcohol and drugs inspired her to investigate what factors influence teens to abuse illegal substances. Some recent studies show that nearly 75 percent of all kids experiment with alcohol before the end of high school.

Jurman surveyed 123 teenagers, using an in-depth questionnaire asking them whether they agreed or disagreed with statements like "My parents/guardians usually know where I am on weekends or after school" and "It is easy to take alcohol from my house."

So what did Jurman find?Kids who know their parents drank as teens are more likely to use alcohol. Why? Because kids can see that, despite their parents' youthful indiscretions, they still grew up to be functioning, successful citizens. So how bad could drinking really be? "The perception kids create becomes the reality," Jurman says.

Jurman's study is the only social science project that made it through to the final judging rounds of the Intel Science Talent Search (the modern incarnation of the famed Westinghouse Science Talent Search). Judges will review the finalists' work next week in Washington, D.C. The 40 finalists will receive scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. Jurman's work is being nationally recognized, and she has been invited to share her findings with parents' groups and even the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

OK, so now we know what not to do. So what can parents do to help prevent kids from drinking? Show them you are clean and sober. Jurman's study also shows that kids are less likely to drink if their folks stay mum about their own underage drinking. This seems to be a clear-cut case of "do as I say and not as I do."

Do you tell your kids about your wild teenage days? Or do you let them believe you were always a model citizen?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.