The problem of underage drinking is not a new one in American society, yet many parents today demonstrate a total lack of strategy on how to deal with it. Common sense demands that parents be at the forefront in guiding their adolescent youth toward adopting good standards of behavior and moral responsibility. However, it is clear from the many studies conducted on underage drinking that parents continue to play a significant role in introducing the youth to alcohol and subsequent alcohol dependence through exposure (Jackson, Ennet, Dickinson, Bowling, 2013). This issue demands sufficient attention. Hence this article dwells on demonstrating what parents should do to avoid exposing the youth to alcohol to successfully address the issue of underage drinking.
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In the context of this article, parental exposure is used to imply the behaviors and actions that the youth are exposed to when their parents engage in drinking sprees for whatever reasons. Some parents are keen on taking their children to social gatherings and family parties, where alcohol is served along with other enticements. Other parents take pride in taking their children to recreational facilities over the weekends to enjoy themselves, while the guardians consume alcohol in the guise of relaxing after a long and difficult week. Indeed, there may be nothing wrong in taking the youth to social gatherings and recreational facilities as has been the tradition in most American families. However, the behaviors and actions that follow after parents take alcohol in such events make a substantial impact on youth decisions to drink (Haugland, 2003).
Parents in this community must realize that children and youth learn from the behaviors and actions exhibited by significant others. Specifically, this group of the population learns and internalizes behavior based on the events happening in the immediate environment (Haugland, 2003). Consequently, if parents project an image that alcoholism is “cool,” many of the youth will have no option other than to internalize that image and start experimenting with alcohol reinforced by the perception that they will be as “cool” as their parents. In this context, it is highly advisable that parents exercise a lot of caution and responsibility while drinking to avoid projecting an image that will interfere with their children’s perceptions of alcohol and alcoholism.
One of the ways that parents can use to demonstrate responsibility, in my view, is by taking their children to social gatherings or recreational facilities that do not serve any alcohol. Parents must desist from indulging their children in social events where alcohol is served at will.
Parental exposure is not limited to, social gatherings and recreational facilities. On the contrary, available research demonstrates that a high percentage of children and youth are exposed to alcohol in home settings (Haugland, 2003). Consider a situation whereby a parent engages in drinking at his own home and at the full glare of his children, or where a parent sends his adolescent son to buy alcohol from the nearby pub for the parent’s consumption at home. In both scenarios, the children are unnecessarily exposed to alcohol and may grow up thinking that alcohol is a good thing since their parents drink it from the comfort of their homes.
Parents must, therefore, take the necessary precautionary steps to ensure that their children are not exposed to alcohol in home settings. A good way to go about this is to have a special room in the house that they can use to consume alcohol away from the glare of their children. Another way would be to engage in taking alcohol after all the children have gone to sleep to avoid instilling a perception that alcohol is good since it can be taken in home settings. One way or the other, the main objective of taking such precautionary measures should be to avoid engaging in any event that may end up adversely affecting your children in the future.
Alcohol is known to adversely affect some important cognitive functions, including the ability to make the right decisions (Haugland, 2003). Consequently, many parents who take alcohol find themselves in a situation whereby they may be unable to make the right decisions in front of their children, while others go to the point of abusing the children or demonstrating antisocial behavior.
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This is a major area of concern as such behaviors may have additional social ramifications on the children other than exposing them to underage drinking. Research has shown that children from alcoholic parents are more likely to demonstrate aggression in school than those in the general population (Jackson et al., 2013). It is, therefore, of critical importance for parents to demonstrate leadership and responsibility to their children even though they engage in alcohol consumption. Alcohol-dependent parents must be encouraged to seek help at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid a scenario that would easily compromise the social and psychological development of their children.
Overall, parental exposure is an important concern which should be considered with the weight it deserves. Parents need to desist from acting as reinforcements to underage drinking by taking control of their drinking habits and behaviors. Of essence is the fact that parents should take the initiative not to expose children and the youth to alcohol in social gatherings, recreational facilities, and home contexts.
Haugland, B.S.M. (2003). Paternal alcohol abuse: Relationship between child adjustment, parental characteristics, and family functioning. Child Psychology & Human Development, 34(2), 127-146. Web.
Jackson, C., Ennet, S., Dickinson, D., & Bowling, J. (2013). Attributes that differentiate children who sip alcohol from abstinent peers. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 42(11), 1687-1695. Web.