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Parents and guardians are important role models for their children—even children who are fast becoming teenagers. Studies indicate that if a parent uses alcohol, his or her children are more likely to drink themselves. But even if you use alcohol, there may be ways to lessen the likelihood that your child will drink.
You can also join school and community efforts to discourage alcohol use by teens. By working with school officials and other members of your community, you can help to develop policies to reduce alcohol availability to teens and to enforce consequences for underage drinking.
Help Your Child Build Healthy Friendships. If your child's friends use alcohol, your child is more likely to drink too. So it makes sense to try to encourage your young teen to develop friendships with kids who do not drink and who are otherwise healthy influences on your child. A good first step is to simply get to know your child's friends better. You can then invite the kids you feel good about to family get-togethers and outings and find other ways to encourage your child to spend time with those teens. Also, talk directly with your youngster about the qualities in a friend that really count, such as trustworthiness and kindness, rather than popularity or a "cool" style.
When you disapprove of one of your child's friends, the situation can be tougher to handle. While it may be tempting to simply forbid your child to see that friend, such a move may make your child even more determined to hang out with him or her. Instead, you might try pointing out your reservations about the friend in a caring, supportive way. You can also limit your child's time with that friend through your family rules, such as how after-school time can be spent or how late your child can stay out in the evening.
Encourage Healthy Alternatives to Alcohol. One reason kids drink is to beat boredom. Therefore, it makes sense to encourage your child to participate in supervised after-school and weekend activities that are challenging and fun. According to a recent survey of preteens, the availability of enjoyable, alcohol-free activities is a big reason for deciding not to use alcohol.
If your community doesn't offer many supervised activities, consider getting together with other parents and young teens to help create some. Start by asking your child and other kids what they want to do, since they will be most likely to participate in activities that truly interest them. Find out whether your church, school, or community organization can help you sponsor a project.
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