Start Underage Drinking Conversation Early


By Denise Schultz, Courier & Press, Oct. 4, 2016 –

Underage drinking is a critical public health issue in America. Drinking is associated with the leading causes of death among young people including car crashes, unintentional injuries, murder and suicide. A 16 year old is more likely to die from a drinking-related problem than any other cause.

Nearly 23 percent of people between 12 and 20 are current alcohol users, according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health report published by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The report also states that over 5 million adolescents binge drink, often having five or more drinks during a single occasion, while 1.3 million are heavy consumers of alcohol.

Besides death and injury, underage drinking can result in other severe consequences. We know that children who drink alcohol are more likely to have legal issues, use drugs, get bad grades or engage in risky sexual behavior. They are also more likely to have memory problems and changes in brain development that cause lifelong effects.

Despite these findings and the fact that underage drinking is illegal, many in our society seem to view underage drinking as uncontrollable and a “rite of passage.” Many teens think it is acceptable to drink, and parents may reinforce this belief by either not saying otherwise or condoning the behavior and allowing their teen to drink “responsibly” at home.

Parents, you have the power to help prevent underage drinking by talking to your children early and often about the dangers of alcohol.

According to Frances Harding, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, “parents are the number one influencers on a young person. If every parent communicated a strong message about underage drinking, we would already have a delay in the onset of alcohol use.” The earlier you talk to your kids about alcohol, the greater chance you have of influencing their future decisions.

Studies show that kids really do listen and want their parents to talk to them about the dangers and consequences of alcohol.  According to SAMHSA, around 80 percent of children feel their parents should have a say in whether or not they drink.

Short conversations in the car, while watching TV or at the dinner table are better than a long, sit-down conversation. In fact, eating dinner with your family is a particularly effective strategy. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse has consistently found that the more often children eat dinner with their family, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use illegal drugs.

Youth First is launching a new marketing strategy, “Talk. They Hear You.” in Vanderburgh County in partnership with The Mayor’s Task Force on Substance Abuse and funded through the Division of Mental Health and Addiction’s Partnership for Success Grant.

“Talk. They Hear You.“ is a national media campaign to prevent underage drinking. The goal of the campaign is to reduce underage drinking among youth ages 9 to 15 by providing parents and caregivers with information and resources they need to start addressing the issue of alcohol with their children. The campaign includes videos, a phone app and other information to help parents talk to their kids about alcohol. You can find additional information at or

Join us on Oct. 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. for an Underage Drinking Town Hall Meeting in the Browning Room at Central Library, 200 SE MLK Blvd. The panel will be introduced by Major Lloyd Winnecke, and Dennis Jon Bailey will be the moderator. Please RSVP to Denise Schultz at 812-421-8336, ext. 106 or

Underage drinking is a preventable problem, and community input and involvement is needed to find solutions. Be a part of the conversation and help make a difference.

Family Dinner Time is Important


By Davi Stein-Kiley, Courier & Press, Sept. 27, 2016 –

The beginning of the new school years marks the opportunity to set new goals for your family.

As a counselor, I have often encouraged parents to assess the needs of each young person in the family and help create environments and experiences that will help that child grow throughout that year. I’ve also encouraged parents to take stock of each season and look for new ideas that will build family together time, supporting family harmony.

There is value in reflecting and planning. Unfortunately, these steps often get overtaken by our hijacked family schedules due to heavy involvement in activities. I would encourage you to consider family experiences with fresh eyes.

If there was just one thing you could do to help your kids, would you do it? Truthfully, there is one important lifestyle habit that could be integrated every day to the benefit of everyone in the family, and it is easily within our grasp.

The answer is simple: Have family dinner time at least five times a week. Safeguard the time. Maintain it as a divine appointment.

During the last 22 years, thousands of American teens have been surveyed through the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia). The results are very compelling and readily overlooked by our manic interest in helping kids get ahead in whatever endeavor they undertake.

But consider these outcomes:Teens who have dinner three times a week or less with their families as compared with peers who have dinner five times or more with their families are:

  • Nearly three times likelier to say it is OK for a teen their age to use marijuana.
  • 3.5 times likelier to say it’s OK for teens their age to get drunk.

Favorable attitudes toward drug and alcohol use are a key risk factor for teens. Family meal time diminishes the risk greatly.

CASA Columbia reports that teens that have family dinners have stronger relationships with their parents and these relationships lead to greater trust. Put simply, teens that have high-quality relationships with mom and dad are less likely to use drugs, drink or smoke.

But what about mental health concerns? The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that young people who engage in family meals have better socialization, and meal time enhances their mental health. As young people experience better relationships, their stress is diminished.

Another study in JAMA reported that students who have regular family mealtimes bounce back better from the impact of cyberbullying.

Young children also build vocabulary and ability to discuss topics when the family meal is present.  Anne Fishel, the co-founder of the Family Dinner Project at Harvard, notes that young children learn as many as 1000 uncommon words at meal time compared to 143 from parents reading story books aloud.

The Journal of Marriage and Family additionally reports that children who spend more time in family meals (and getting adequate sleep) have better results academically.

Family mealtimes have vast importance in the life of our kids. Get started today with some food, fun and conversations that will have lasting impact.

Sept. 26 is National Eat Dinner with your Family Day, and Youth First, Inc. is proud to celebrate this event with our community.

For more information about family dinners see