I think we are all looking forward to the nice weather and being able to spend time outdoors with our families and friends, especially after a long winter and the releasing grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. With that, comes alcoholic beverages, especially because we live in Wisconsin right? It almost seems like the right of way—it’s our culture. We have fundraisers that involve alcohol and most family festivities revolve around alcohol.
A few years ago, we “Wisconsinites” topped the charts for binge drinking. Our colleges are known for beer parties. This is something that I am not proud of because as a parent this statistic is scary. Burnett County has a higher number of residents per liquor license which is 161. That is higher than the State average which is 340 residents per license. According to the CDC, underage drinking is the cause of death to 3,500 people under 21 years old every year. It is also estimated that 210,000 years of potential life is lost in young people under 21 years old. In 2010, underage drinking cost the US $21 billion dollars. According to a three year study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says that if you start drinking before 15 years of age that you are 50 times more likely to become alcohol dependent as adults. According to the 2018 YRBS (Youth Risk Behavior Study) of youth in Burnett County, 39.1 % of middle school students and 53.5% of high school students had at least one drink of alcohol and 3.8% of middle school students and 6.2 % of high school students have had five or more drinks at one time. Again, as a parent this scares me. We need to celebrate our children that are not drinking and support more healthy opportunities for all youth for this pattern to continue.
How do we teach our children that drinking underage is NOT a norm? Even though we live in a state where the alcohol industry spends over $10 million dollars a year lobbying for the industry, there are still ways to overcome this.
- Talk to them. Open up a good line of communication with your child before something happens and remember that it is never too young to start talking about making good choices.
- Don’t lecture but rather focus on helping your child develop good critical thinking skills.
- Allow them to be the expert in their own life.
- Parents should set a good example for their child because children do what they see.
- Provide your children with alcohol free activities.
- Know where your child is and with whom at all times. Don’t be afraid to call and check your child’s story.
- Monitor your child’s social media accounts.
- Have supper together as a family.
Burnett County is our community. Every one of us has a responsibility to make our community safer for our families and children because as my grandma used to say, “it takes a village to raise a child.”
If you would like more information on how to start a conversation with your children about alcohol or drugs or are interested in joining our group, please reach out to us at the Burnett County Prevention Coalition. Visit us at our website burnettprevention.org or give me a call at 715-791-9687. If we all work together, we can continue to make Burnett County a safe place for our families to grow and prosper. Have a safe and healthy summer!
Submitted by: Bridget Getts, Burnett County Prevention Coalition
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