Substance abuse prevention is theme In all 50 states it is illegal for anyone under 21 to buy an alcoholic beverage, yet alcohol is the drug most often used by children ages 12 to 17, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. October is Child Health Month and the academy will use the observance to focus on preventing alcohol use among children — specifically, underage drinking, drinking and driving, binge drinking and fetal alcohol syndrome.
According to the academy, more than four million teenagers consume alcohol in a a given month; alcohol-related car crashes are the number one killer of teens; and alcohol is a factor in the other three leading causes of youth death — homicides, suicides and drowning.
"The theme for Child Health Month is SOLUTIONS BEFORE PROBLEMS," said Marcy Lund, RN, Clay County CHN. "It's a good reminder for all of us that we can each do something to prevent children from choosing behaviors, like alcohol use, that put them at risk for physical, mental or emotional injury or even death."
The following suggestions are offered for parents and other adults to help children avoid alcohol use:
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE. Don't use alcohol as a way to relax or cope with problems. Don't drink under unsafe conditions, such as while driving.
LISTEN TO YOUR CHILDREN. Pay attention to them and play an active role in their lives. Build their self-esteem and avoid constant criticism.
OFFER YOUR ADVICE. The teenage years often bring strong feelings and emotions. Help your child learn to deal with emotional pain and tension.
KEEP THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION OPEN. Encourage discussion on topics of concern to your teenager — alcohol, drugs, sex and the need for peer group acceptance. Education about alcohol should begin early.
ENCOURAGE ENJOYABLE AND WORTHWHILE OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES. Avoid turning too much of our child's time into chores.
For more information about child health issues, contact your family physician or the local community health office at 605-677-6767.