Viewpoint

As summer dawns, talk to your kids about drinking

Jim Gardner
Jim Gardner

From Jim Gardner, chairman of the N.C. ABC Commission and co-chair of the Governor’s Substance Abuse and Underage Drinking Prevention and Treatment Task Force:

North Carolina’s young people are marking the beginning of summer and the expanded sense of freedom this time of year often brings. As parents, we celebrate another year’s accomplishments with them. But we must also remember that in many ways, our job gets harder this time of year – especially when it comes to preventing underage drinking.

I have always been committed to the health and safety of North Carolina’s young people and families. Now, I have nine additional reasons to take the issue of underage drinking very personally – my grandchildren.

Surveys commissioned by the N.C. ABC Commission this spring show that 94 percent of North Carolina’s youth say underage drinking is a problem; 54 percent think it’s a big problem. Two-thirds of middle and high school-aged youth know people around their age who have tried alcohol. And among those same youth, the average age that most youth try alcohol for the first time is 14. Despite those numbers, only 44 percent of N.C. parents share young people’s view that underage drinking is a serious problem.

This disconnect is what prompted my colleagues at the N.C. ABC Commission and me to create our “Talk It Out” campaign. The goal is to educate parents about the issue and to empower them with the tools they need to talk to their kids about the dangers.

To do that, we must face the reality that this not only could be your child, but statistically speaking, it probably will be your child. While 87 percent of parents see underage drinking as a community problem, only 59 percent are concerned about their own children doing it.

We all want to think that our children and grandchildren would never do anything wrong. But there’s a difference between being blinded by love and being motivated by it to act. I am calling on you to choose to act. Graduation and the beginning of summer beach trips are a prime time for underage drinking to occur. In addition, the beginning of summer means less supervision for tweens and teens.

This is a natural and essential time for you to have a conversation with your kids about underage drinking and to set the ground rules and expectations surrounding underage drinking for your family. You need to be clear, and you need to be prepared.

That’s why the N.C. ABC Commission has created www.talkitoutnc.org. We want you to be armed with the information you need and prepared with the answers to the questions your child will ask. Use this valuable resource. Your children have told us they want to hear from you about underage drinking, so let’s start talking. We simply can’t afford to wait.

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