The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends in a new clinical report that parents should start talking with their children about alcohol at the age of nine.
Researchers say kids are being exposed to alcohol marketing at younger and younger ages. They believe that talking to kids about the risks can help them make better choices when they’re confronted with alcohol use.
Alcohol is the substance most frequently abused by children and adolescents in the United States, and its use is associated with the leading causes of death and serious injury at this age.
Among youth who use alcohol, the proportion who consume heavily is higher than among adult alcohol consumers, increasing from approximately 50% in those 12 to 14 years of age to 72% among those 18 to 20 years of age.
This clinical report by the American Academy of Paediatrics discusses the definition, epidemiology, and risk factors for binge alcohol intake; the neurobiology of intoxication, blackouts, and hangovers; and adverse outcomes. The report offers guidance for the pediatrician.
As with any high-risk behavior, prevention plays a more important role than later intervention and has been shown to be more effective. In the pediatric office setting, it is important to ask every adolescent about alcohol use.
IOGT International Member Organisation IOGT Norway is running a program called “Strong and Ready” (Sterk&Klar) which works with pupils between the ages of 13 to 16 years, usually from 8th to 10th grade.
What IOGT Norway reports from their work is that sometimes in the youngest group parents say that when they talk with their children about alcohol, the kids answer that alcohol is not relevant for them.
This experience points to a dilemma in prevention: There is a need to talk about alcohol, but at the same time there’s the danger that parents and adults might contribute to making alcohol more important than it really is.
Talking about alcohol is essential, but no conversation can replace the overall and urgent need in Western society to change the alcohol norm and to create more alcohol-free environments for children and youth. Parents and adults in general need to be aware of the fact that talking only helps so much and that the talk ought to be backed up by action.
Children and youth deserve to grow up free from alcohol. Given the disproportionate harm burdening children and youth, adults need to do more: more talk – and then also walk the talk consequently.