Communication is Key to Helping Prevent Your Children from Drinking

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
November 14, 2017

There are lots of risk and protective factors associated with higher or lower likelihood that teens will drink alcohol. However, each year students report in the Fairfax County Youth Survey that one factor is the strongest predictor of use. And, it’s an easy one for parents to control.

Overall, 15.2% of Fairfax County 8th, 10th, and 12th graders participating in the 2016 Youth Survey (administered in Fall 2016) reported having used alcohol in the past month. This is the lowest rate since FCPS began the Youth Survey in 2001.

One of the strongest predictors of such use is the extent to which youth believe their parents approve or do not approve of drinking. Students were asked “How wrong do your parents feel it would be for you to drink beer, wine, or hard liquor?” Among those who responded “very wrong,” only 8% reported drinking in the past month. On the other hand, more than half of students whose parents don’t think drinking is wrong have used alcohol in the past month. In other words, simply letting your kids know that you do not want them to drink can have a large impact on their behavior. Do not wait until the high school years to start the conversation about alcohol (or any) drug use. Let children know early and consistently how you feel about use.

For many, this can be a difficult conversation to have. How do you answer questions about your own alcohol use as a teen? What are the best ways to resist peer pressure? Fortunately, there are some great resources available to help you start and manage that conversation. We strongly recommend Talk. They Hear You., a collection of messages and materials developed by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). They even have a great mobile app that will guide you through the talk.

Take a look at the Fairfax County Youth Survey, and  be sure to view the Youth Survey Alcohol Use Fact Sheet while you’re there.

If you are concerned about your child’s alcohol or other drug use, please reach out to your school psychologist, school social worker, or school counselor.

About School Psychologists

School psychologists are in every educational setting in FCPS and are members of school staff who support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach. School psychologists apply expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally by providing direct support to students, such as individualized learning and behavioral assessments to identify students’ strengths and needs, academic and behavioral interventions, counseling, and social skills training. School psychologists also consult with teachers, families, and other educators to improve support strategies and school-wide practices and policies, and are in a unique position to ensure students’ success every day, including both small and big accomplishments.

The school psychologist in your school looks forward to working with you and other families in our community to encourage all of our children, whether at home or at school, to power up and take positive action to make our community a better place. Find the school psychologist in your child’s school.

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Prevention Unit of the Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services. It is part of the Healthy Minds Fairfax initiative. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles.

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