Parents, you may not think your teen is listening, but you make the biggest difference. Research from the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (www.samhsa.gov) shows that the No. 1 influence on youth behavior is still parents.

The administration’s “Talk. They Hear You” substance abuse prevention campaign has an online toolkit with tips on how to talk with your teen about all the potential consequences of drinking alcohol.

It’s important to explain that you don’t approve of underage drinking because it’s dangerous and illegal, and to ask your teens where they will be at all times and what they will be doing. Emphasize the importance of watching out for careless and possible drunk drivers.

Encourage your teens to call or text you at any time if a safe ride home is needed. Parents should talk with other parents to ensure that alcohol consumption by minors isn’t an option at parties. Serving alcohol to one’s own child may be legal in the state of Texas, or considered by some as culturally acceptable, but serving someone else’s child is illegal, life-threatening and unacceptable.

This is especially important as spring break is upon us. For many students, spring break is a carefree time away from classroom pressures. Unfortunately, for many it’s a time of excessive drinking and dealing with its aftermath — violence, sexual aggression, and even death.

As your teenage sons and daughters prepare to celebrate their spring break escape, take the opportunity to talk with them about the consequences of binge drinking and alcohol poisoning.

It’s important to note that drinking and driving isn’t the only risk associated with underage drinking. The combination of alcohol and young people celebrating increases their risk for other drug use, promiscuity and unprotected sex, and injury.

Alcohol can damage adolescent brain cells, interact negatively with medications, and lead to loss of control and violence. Binge drinking can lead to loss of consciousness and alcohol poisoning, which often results in death.

And remember, supplying alcohol to youth is against the law. Any adult who serves alcohol to underage youth, or who is aware of it being served to underage youth on their property, may be legally responsible and liable for all of the destructive and deadly damage that may result. Providing alcohol to a minor is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable up to one year in jail and a fine up to $4,000.

Responsible parents and responsible teenagers can make high school celebrations a fun and lasting memory for everyone without the alcohol. Parents, teenagers, and communities have to work together to keep spring break fun and safe.

For more information, contact Galveston County Community Coalition, of the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol at coalitions@bacoda.org or 800-510-3111.

Mary Beth Trevino is coalition coordinator for Galveston County Community Coalition of the Bay Area Council on Drugs and Alcohol.

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