Twelve Talks to
Have With Teens
Adults often feel that a little alcohol is harmless for teens. However, underage alcohol use — particularly binge drinking — leads to risky sexual behavior, use of other drugs, alcohol poisoning or violence.
- 70% of Jeffco 9th – 12th graders DO NOT drink alcohol regularly– and 60% of high school seniors DO NOT drink alcohol regularly (2019 Jeffco HKCS data).
- Jefferson County youth report that when they drink, they usually drink “to get drunk” (2018 Youth Town Hall)
- Over 4,300 young people die each year in the United States as a result of drinking alcohol. Additionally alcohol use in youth can:
- Negatively impact brain functions
- Increase likelihood of risky sexual behavior
- Increase risk of physical and sexual assault
- Increase risk of decision-making and memory problems
- Alcohol is the most common “date rape” drug. Jefferson County youth report that sexual assaults almost always involve alcohol (2018 Youth Town Hall).
- In Jefferson County, youth report three main sources of alcohol: taking it without permission from home, buying it off someone old enough to purchase it and being given alcohol by a parent or guardian (2018 Youth Town Hall).
- Jefferson County youth report that drinking most often occurs in people’s homes with “chill” parents or when parents/guardians are out of town. When asked what “really happens” at parties, youth report binge drinking, use of multiple types of drugs, rape and fights as common occurrences (2018 Youth Town Hall).
Jefferson County High School Age Youth
Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 2019
Learn how your teen’s brain develops and how substances can impact the process. (3:15 minutes)
What would you consider to be too much to drink?
What do you know about blacking out (cannot remember events) after drinking?
I’m curious. Why do you think people drink? (If you know your teen drinks, ask what they get out of it).
What did you and your friends end up doing last night?
What should happen to adults who supply alcohol to underage kids who end up getting hurt?
What worries you most about teens your age drinking?
Why do you think violence happens so much more often when people are drinking?
When you see advertisements for alcohol or are going past an alcohol store or bar, use that as a conversation starter by commenting on the number or style of alcohol references in the area.
Tell your teen you were just reading statistics about drinking in Jefferson County. Ask them to define binge drinking and to guess what demographic has the highest rates of binge drinking. (Answers: 4 drinks for women/ 5 drinks for men; and white, middle class, middle aged women.)
When you or other family members buy or use alcohol in front of your teen, talk to them about why alcohol is okay for you, when used in moderation, but not for teens.
As they are headed out the door to see friends, talk to them about friends and alcohol.
Rules & Boundaries
- Local data shows that when parents set the expectation of knowing where their teen is and who they are with, those teens are much less likely to binge drink.
- In Jefferson County, youth often teach each other how to use various forms of marijuana in homes where there is little or no supervision. If you go out of town, take these steps to prevent a “house party” from occurring at your home.
- If adults in your home use alcohol, make an agreement that they will never provide alcohol to those under 21. Also track the amount kept in the home and let your teens know you keep track of it. Even if your teen would never take these items without permission, locking them prevents your teen’s friends, younger children, visitors to your home and pets from accessing them.
- Keep alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs and firearms in a locked cabinet or in locked room in your home. Track the amount kept in the home and let your teens know you keep track of it.
Equity & Inclusion
Youth and adults who become addicted to alcohol or other drugs benefit from professional treatment. Unfortunately, many groups face stigma around treatment and disparities in access to treatment. If you are struggling to find or afford treatment, patient navigators at Jefferson Center may be able to help.
Youth in Colorado are suspended or expelled from school or involved with law enforcement for underage alcohol use, and youth of color or youth that experience a disability are more likely to be disciplined than white youth in Colorado.
Ask your school about their discipline practices and code of conduct. Ask how they are implementing health and substance use education. Ask about Jeffco’s restorative practices and how they are being implemented equitably for all students.
Taking Action in your Community
Reduction of risk factors, and improvements in protective factors, can happen on multiple levels– within an individual, among friends and family, by adjusting systems in places like schools or businesses, and on the policy level for towns, counties or states. When improvements happen on all levels, our teens are most likely to thrive. Here are some policy and systems you and/or your teens might be able to influence:
- Many Jeffco youth learn from other youth how to binge drink at parties or gatherings in private homes. Cities can pass laws to fine homeowners or leaseholders when they allow youth to consume substances on their property.
- Join Jeffco CTC to address local policies and efforts that support youth.
- Jeffco CTC youth have developed a policy proposal about this issue.
- Cites can restrict alcohol promotions, signage, merchandising, location, etc.
- These types of policies may help reduce youth alcohol use.
- The amount and content of health education students receive (including information about substance misuse and effective skill development) varies by school.
- Ask your school how they are implementing health education for all students. Ask if the school knows about Jeffco’s Health Education Policy and related resources. Also, encourage your teen to take a high school health education elective.
- Having data in our county on youth alcohol use and behaviors helps to bring in resources and support for youth.
- Email the local Board of Education (see example letter here) to share your support for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey to get important information on youth needs in our community.
- Join your School Accountability Committee and ask about using non-academic data and information (e.g., health information, climate survey data, etc) to guide school improvement efforts and plans.
* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019, 2020 & 2021.
This resource is maintained with funding from a Coalitions Organizing For Prevention grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a Drug Free Communities Grant from the Centers for Disease Control. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.