New Book Acts as Parents’ Guide to Talking to Kids about Alcohol Abuse

A new book from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) acts as a parents’ guide to helping prevent middle-school students from drinking alcohol. “Delaying That First Drink: A Parents’ Guide” was created by the AAAS’s Science Inside Alcohol Project, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Parents can find information about the impact of alcohol on the developing brain as well as tips on how to talk to kids about alcohol.

Research has shown that kids who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol-related problems later in life, so it’s important to inform kids that delaying their first drink can impact the rest of their lives.

Shirley Malcom, the director of Education and Human Resources programs for AAAS, said the book underscores the importance of paying more attention to the risks of early drinking, as many people only worry about high school students drinking because it is often combined with driving. But kids as young as 10 are drinking, which can lead to many problems later in life, including risky behavior and poor school performance.

The authors hope the book will raise awareness among those who interact with kids about the effects that alcohol can have on the still-developing brain. Alcohol can affect all parts of the body and brain, including the heart, liver, digestive system, and other organs.

AAAS interviewed seventh graders from different middle schools in the northeastern U.S., and responses from 143 students showed that they knew very little about the science behind alcohol and how it affects the body and brain. About half of the students didn’t know how alcohol is made, and about one-third didn’t know which body systems are affected by alcohol.

Malcom said the book will be available to be incorporated into school curricula, but it is mostly intended as a guide for parents. She added that being preachy about alcohol and forbidding certain behaviors may not work, whereas this approach shows kids exactly how alcohol affects them.

Written by Aimee Stern of Stern Communications in Silver Spring, Maryland, with the help of an advisory board of alcohol abuse specialists, the book is available online at: At a meeting of the International Conference of Young People in Alcoholics Anonymous, Stern met many people who started drinking in middle school or their first year in high school.

Rebecca Kullback, an adviser for the book and a licensed clinical social worker and co-founder of Metropolitan Counseling Associates in Bethesda, Maryland, said that most young students believe that bad things happen to other people, tending to minimize the perception of risks in their own behaviors. She said that the new book gives parents an opportunity to teach their kids about the dangers of alcohol abuse in a relevant way. She added that the older people are when they take their first drink, the less likely they are to have substance abuse problems.

The book encourages parents to start talking to kids about substance abuse in fourth grade and continue talking to them though middle school and high school. Parents should also pay attention to other factors such as advertising, pop culture, and certain Internet sites, which can promote drinking.

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science, New from AAAS: A guide for parents on talking to kids about alcohol, September 22, 2010