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Spending Quality Time with your Child Pays Off

By Mr. Angelo Valente, Executive Director of Partners for a Drug Free New Jersey

Alcohol use by our children is a significant problem in our state and across the country.  As a father of three and the Executive Director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, (PDFNJ) for the past eighteen years, it is startling to realize that 46 percent of New Jersey children in the seventh and eighth grades have experimented with alcohol.  A recent PDFNJ Parental Attitudes Survey found that while 86 percent of parents with a twelve to thirteen year old reported they have a "zero tolerance" policy towards their child drinking alcohol, significantly fewer parents (80 percent) with a fourteen to fifteen year old reported having similar policies.  This statistic shows a very disturbing trend.
As parents, there are a number of things we can do to help our children avoid drinking alcohol. One thing that we as parents can do is try to be aware and perceptive of both our children's and their friends' behavior. Parents should be sure to engage their children in conversations about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  The PDFNJ Center for Prevention Research (CPR) has found that children who spend just fifteen minutes a day communicating with their parents are 67 percent less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

In fact, something as simple as sharing a meal with your children can help him or her avoid using alcohol. According to the CPR, parents who have family meals five or more times per week are significantly more likely to find talking to their child about alcohol and drugs not difficult at all, as compared to parents who have family meals four or fewer times per week. The 2011 PDFNJ Parental Attitudes Study also found parents who have family meals five or more times per week are significantly more likely to feel that they have a lot of influence on their child's attitudes towards drugs and alcohol as compared to parents who have family meals four or fewer times per week.

As parents, we serve a very important protective factor for our children. We must take an active role in our children's lives by setting strong alcohol policies, maintaining constant communication, and being aware of our children's friends. The fact is that the choices and actions we make today have an impact on our children through childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood. A recent CPR study of New Jersey young adults ages 21 to 30 found that respondents who had a positive family environment throughout their childhood were less likely to abuse alcohol in early adulthood. By being proactive, we are not only helping our children through the difficult times of adolescence but also through life. For additional help or information please visit www.drugfreenj.org.

Factors that Protect Against Adolescent Alcohol and Drug Use and Abuse:

  • Strong bonds with the family
  • Parental monitoring with clear rules of conduct within the family unit
  • Involvement of parents in the lives of their children
  • Student success in school performance
  • Strong bonds with pro-social institutions such as the family, school, and religious organizations
  •  Adoption of conventional norms about alcohol and drug use