"Parents may influence the development of drinking
beliefs in their sons and daughters through commun-
ication with them. These beliefs, in turn, may have a role
in influencing the probability of the students experiencing negative binge-drinking related consequences while at college. Interventions that attempt to increase such communications and beliefs in college students have the potential for reducing binge-drinking related consequences."
"Binge-Drinking-Related Consequences in College Students:Role of Drinking Beliefs and Mother-Teen Communications" : Rob Turrisi, Kimberley A Wiersma, Kelli K Hughes.
These are the final summary comments of a study made in 2000. The study was with "college"/university of tertiary students, and although researchers stated more needs to be known on the topic about teens not in tertiary study and in different population-sized centres, I think the findings give parents a lot of information to work with their teenagers of all ages.
Despite the fact that drug and alcohol abuse education and preventative programs have increased in high schools, the number of teenagers with problems in these areas are increasing.
The connection of children's drinking beliefs with communication between children and parents.
Turrisi, Wiersma and Hughes' study repeatedly comments on the effect parents can have into the lives of their teenage children, ". . . .inaccurate assumption that parents have minimal influence on the children when the children are living away from home at college. The data from the present study reaffirms the importance of the relationship between mother-teen communications and teen drink-related beliefs relevant to binge-drinking consequences. We were impressed by the consistency. . . . with which mother-teen communication were related to the "beliefs" that prevented the experience of negative consequences."
I wrote on the topic of Parents influence into the lives of their children, in my second blog - WEEK 2 QUOTE 2.
Dick Schaefer in his article "Choices and Consequences:What to do When a Teenager Uses Alcohol/Drugs", also beckons parents to communicate with their teenagers. "Traditionally, in the upcoming season of (high school and university balls) the amount of alcohol young people drink soars. What's important", says Schaefer, "is to keep the lines of communication open before an incident occurs. . . . It should be just as easy to talk to them about drinking and marijuana as it is to talk about sex. . . . and that's the problem," says Schaefer. "We think we're so open but we're not."
Turrisi, Wiersma and Hughes say in their study that not all students who drink get into trouble. "So who are the ones at risk? Our findings suggest it is the ones with certain beliefs and that's where mother-teen communication can really play a role in changing those beliefs."
Not changing habits, rather changing beliefs.
A teenager's "belief" or attitude to alcohol therefore plays a huge part in how frequently and excessively they will drink alcohol. Help is not found in trying to change drinking habits, but rather in changing beliefs or attitudes in a teenager's mind, about alcohol.
One of my 'heroes', Charlotte Mason, gives a wonderful method to bring about a change in bad behavioural habits in children. She starts by asking the parent to think carefully about the child's problem, what it could grow into for them in the future if left unchanged and how it affects the child and others. She asks us to be specific with particular details. Then, when both parent and child are calm, talk to the child about their bad habit, giving all your detailed thoughts and scenarios of the future. The idea is to show the truthful unhappy outcomes of the habit. Charlotte describes it as appealing to their will. This is what has to change - their attitude or belief, before there will be any change in behaviour.
The effect of belief on behaviour.
You may be asking how can a belief or attitude toward alcohol affect a teenager's behaviour? The study found there was a link between students who held the view that alcohol would enhance social behaviour or positively transform it, with the probability of the student driving after drinking and getting into fights. In fact as the magnitude of this belief increased in a student's mind, the likelihood of involvement in physical fighting also significantly increased.
Another finding was that individuals who saw drinking as cool, were less likely to acknowledge they had experienced hangovers or other ill effects after binge-drinking.
Facts about the effects of alcohol.
Binge drinking can lead to a raft of consequence problems such as obesity, memory loss, brain damage and death itself. Statistics show "children who get drunk for the first time under the age of fifteen are five times more likely to have alcohol-related problems later on in life, and if alcoholism is in your family, your child is four times more likely to become an alcoholic."
The more a person drinks the more their powers of decision-making are altered. Further choices and decisions are likely to be even poorer, increasing the risk of unacceptable actions and behaviour. As more alcohol is consumed an individual's perception of what is happening around them changes. The danger here for girls is that in their view everyone seems to be having a good time. But at that point they are oblivious to the thinking of some men, that girls "are more sexually available after they have been drinking". They also believe "it is less likely they will get into any trouble". As alcohol is increased true perception of circumstances decreases.
As a Mum, what do I need to say?
"Keeping the lines of communication open," says Dick Schaefer, means as parents we need to talk to our teenagers about our concerns. Teenagers, particularly young ones, love to state that everyone drinks, but that is not true. NZ Statistics on the subject says 50% of the NZ population aged 12 - 17 years in 2003 were non-drinkers. Seven years on, the statistics will have changed, but I am sure we can use this statistic as Schaefer says to "arm" ourselves when talking with our children about the drinking scene. He says it's important to "break this idea that everyone drinks, because it is just not true."
The study asked students about conversations with their mothers in the following areas ~
* how alcohol changes your personality.
* how drinking could get you into trouble with the police.
* how alcohol can create a false sense of power.
* how alcohol only gets in the way of making true friends.
* how drinking only makes problems worse, not better.
* how being caught drinking would affect other relationships.
* how being caught drinking could bring embarrassment to themselves or the family.
* the importance of being committed to a healthy lifestyle.
* what the punishment could be in being caught drinking.
You could add to this, facts about the harmful physical effects of alcohol on a person's body.
How about us parents?
The research showed that some mum-teen communication was due to parents hearing about or catching their teen drinking. Rather than parents following this course of action, parents need to be proactive, communicating as Dick Schaefer says before the event, or in their growing up years. The findings were that "When parents communicate more, the teens were less positive about drinking."
We need to also check our approach to alcohol - what message are we sending our children in our attention, fascination, prominence or financial investment into alcohol?
You may be wondering what "powers" Mums have in communicating, to make this difference in the lives of their sons and daughters? - a topic to explore in another blog.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS, Mums, have a chat with your teenagers and preteens, about alcohol.