Thoughtful Parenting: Provide positive environments this holiday season | SteamboatToday.com

Thoughtful Parenting: Provide positive environments this holiday season

Adrienne Hearne/For Steamboat Today

Grand Futures Prevention Coalition would like to reiterate the importance of limiting youth access to alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and other drugs and expound upon the Social Host Ordinance. If you don't permit it, you don't promote it. Think smart this holiday season, and don't allow your child to underage drink.

Why shouldn’t my kid drink alcohol?

We know the brain continues to develop from birth until around age 25 and that consuming high amounts of alcohol before the brain is fully developed can lead to an increased risk of dependency, changes in brain chemistry, lessened emotional resiliency, mental health issues and decreased athleticism. Alcohol also can contribute to risk-taking behaviors such as unsafe sexual practices and driving while under the influence.

Why should I not provide beer to my kids and their friends?

In spite of it seeming like a good way to bond with your child, you are actually sending him or her a message that it is OK to drink as you do and that it is OK to do it whenever and with whomever they want. Providing alcohol to youth normalizes the habit of drinking to them, and once that boundary is crossed, it is hard to know where it will take them. It is also setting both them and you up for potential legal consequences — a minor in possession charge is given to any teen found with alcohol or suspected of consuming it. Also, there is no evidence suggesting teens allowed to drink in the home are any less likely to drink elsewhere or with their friends.

What if I want to provide a safe place for my kids and their friends to party?

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While it may be well-intentioned, this is an absolute n0-no, as you will be held liable for the underage drinking happening on your premises. In Steamboat Springs, the Social Host Ordinance holds adults responsible for knowingly providing a place for underage drinking to occur. This is also true for college-aged students who throw parties where minors are present. Fines range from $500 to $1,000, with mandatory community service, alcohol class and potential jail time. You may be tempted to provide a safe place this holiday season for your kids and their friends to party, but please know the law and the liability that you will be undertaking if you decide to be the "cool" parent.

Talk to your kids. It is of paramount importance that you, as parents/authoritative influences talk openly with your kids about drinking and drugging.

Recent findings suggest substance use prevention efforts have the greatest impact when parents target early developing youth and that such efforts are most effective when parents set a good example at home, talk and listen openly, make their views and rules transparent, focus on positive messages, promote self-confidence and continue to have conversations about drugs and alcohol, sex and mental wellness.

Also, nationwide surveys of 12 to 17 year olds show teens who believe their parents strongly disapprove of their substance use were less likely to use substances than others. Your influence matters a great deal, parents.

Adrienne Hearne, MSW, is the Routt County director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, a free and local substance abuse prevention resource for youth throughout northwest Colorado. Learn more at grandfutures.org and keepkidsdrugfree.com.