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Health advocates urge parents to talk to kids about underage drinking

SALT LAKE CITY — Parents are shifting from the end of the school year to summer break.

Health advocates say there’s an important conversation you should have with your kids to make sure they stay away from drinking.

There’s no perfect way to talk to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking.

Parents Empowered suggests you take the first step by meeting them where they’re at. It’s not a matter of if but when your child will confront the reality of underage drinking.

One way parents can get ahead of it is to spend the summer with their child doing alcohol-free activities.

Heidi Dutson, with Parents Empowered, said to be intentional.

“I’ve got a good friend, and she’s recently started doing this ‘not bummer summer’ list. I love it; they create a big poster, and it’s all the fun activities they’re going to do,” Dutson said.

She recommends you devote 10 to 15 minutes a day doing what they like to do.

“Maybe that’s playing a video game you might not normally get excited about,” she said.

This is a good opportunity for parents to talk openly and honestly about the harms of underage drinking, peer pressure and addiction — as early as age 9.

“Kids really want to know why, too,” Dutson said. “It can wire their brain for addiction and really impede some of their future dreams.”

“The paramount thing to remember is what the science tells us,” Dutson said.

When parents form strong bonds with their children, studies show they are less likely to drink.

“You could also talk to them about ‘mocktails’ (nonalcoholic beverages) and how to ask for an alcohol-free alternative so they can stay in the social environment without drinking alcohol,” she said.

Utah has one of the lowest rates of teen alcohol use in the country at 11%, and Dutson would like to keep it that way.

It’s never too late to have these conversations with our kids about underage use of alcohol.

You don’t have to go at it alone.

Check out the resources on the Parents Empowered website.

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