(Photo : Reuters)
A national study has found parents have more influence over the behaviors of their teen-aged children than they think they do, when it comes to alcohol and drug use.
Findings from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), indicated more than one in every five parents of teens think what they say has little influence on whether their child uses alcohol, illicit substances or tobacco --- and that one in every 10 parents indicated they hadn't even tried talking to their children, ages 12 through 17, about the consequences of substance abuse.
Yet, an overwhelming majority of the parents who said they didn't talk to their children about substance use actually believed their children would have heeded their warnings.
In fact, the annual nationwide survey of 67,500 Americans ages 12 and older revealed teens who believe their parents would strongly disapprove of them using substances were far less likely to try them than their peers were.
Only five percent of children who believed their parents would strongly disprove of them smoking marijuana tried the drug anyway, whereas 31.5 percent of those who did not believe their parents would strongly disprove of their behaviors said they smoked pot.
"Surveys of teens repeatedly show that parents can make an enormous difference in influencing their children's perceptions of tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drug use," Pamela S. Hyde, SAMHSA's administrator, said. "Although most parents are talking with their teens about the risks of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, far too many are missing the vital opportunity these conservations provide in influencing their children's health and well-being."
Conversations about alcohol can change as children get older, Robert Lindsey, president and CEO of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, noted in a report by USA Today.
"Early on, it may be very basic information," he said. "As kids get older, we need to talk about the impact on health, academics, relationships, driving and the dangers of alcohol and prescription drugs."
Lindsey added it's also important to talk to teens about their family history and any genetic predisposition they may have to alcohol, he added.
Finally, he said, parents should listen to their kids and be equally mindful of their own non-verbal communication, because "children learn as much from watching what you do as from what you say."
"Any time is a good time to talk to your kids when you have a chance," said Peter Delany, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the SAMHSA, "but if you haven't started talking to your kids, before school gets out is an especially good time."
In the summer months, particularly during holiday weekends, youths are "more likely to get involved with substances," Delany said, because they often have more access to substances outside of school, especially at peer get-togethers, such as holiday parties.