Each year hundreds of teenagers die from drinking alcohol, either from behind the wheel of a car, alcohol poisoning, or as a result of a friend’s abusive behavior. Additionally, alcohol damages the brains of teens, which are still developing well into adulthood. Not only do teenagers need to be aware of these dangers, but parents need to know how to handle this fragile situation so they are better equipped to talk to their teens about this sensitive subject.
According to researchers, the human brain continues to mature and develop into the early twenties. Therefore, exposure of the developing brain to alcohol may have long-lasting effects on intellectual capabilities. A good reason to have 21 the minimum age limit for an individual to legally drink.
Teenagers who drink alcohol may experience both irreversible brain damage and learning disabilities. A study performed at the University of California showed nerve damage in teens who drank, affecting each gender in a different way. Boys typically experienced a negative effect on their attention span, while the damage from alcohol affected girls' ability to comprehend and interpret information.
During the study, the examiners looked particularly at 12 to 14 year-olds who drank four or five drinks two to three times per month--this is binge drinking for teens. These participants did much worse on tests due to thinking and memory problems versus teens who do not drink.
To determine how binge drinking affects the brain, the examiners incorporated brain imaging to look at the nerve tissue, or white matter, of the brain. This tissue is responsible for relaying messages between the cells. Teens who are considered binge drinkers showed damaged white matter, a sign of poor quality brain function, thus poor communication between brain cells. Based on these imaging scans, it is not surprising that these teens had a difficult time learning verbal material in school.
Parents play the most important role in preventing their teens from drinking alcohol, however, they must know how to go about doing so first. One thing many pediatricians recommend is having a screening policy in place. You can order a kit to keep in your home that allows you to test your teen for alcohol use whenever you choose. If your teen knows you are going to test randomly, it may help keep him on the straight and narrow. It also gives them a legitimate excuse (an out) to tell their friends when being pressured to drink.
Another method you can use is taking online alcohol classes to learn how to educate your teen about the dangers and risks of underage drinking. Or have your teen take these instructive and interesting classes.
The best way to start your discussion is when you are both relaxed and calm. You can start by asking how much your teen knows the risks and how he feels about it. Explain the facts, and be blunt about it. Show statistics. Tell him how use can permanently damage the brain at his age. Give him ways to cope with peer pressure, but most importantly, set a good example for him. If he sees you drinking regularly, he is going to look at you like a hypocrite. He will feel as if he has no reason to listen to you.
Statistics show that teenage drinking is on the rise. As a parent who doesn’t want their child to involved in this statistic, you can arm your child with the tools he needs to avoid abuse. Online alcohol education classes are a convenient, educational and low-cost way to start.