Thoughtful Parenting: Combatting underage alcohol use

Megan McCord/For Steamboat Today

Summertime is beautiful, warm, and sunny, a time when people like to get outside: swim, bike, climb, hike, camp and drink. Summer is one of the biggest times of underage drinking as well. Without the regular restrictions of school, sports and academics, teens are more likely to drink during the summer. Since April Steamboat Springs has already had three Social Host Ordinance violations.

Passed in 2009, Steamboat Springs’ Social Host Ordinances hold adults accountable for allowing underage drinking parties in their homes. Often, parents with the best of intentions think that letting their child drink in their home, supervised, will teach them how to drink responsibly and keep them from drinking in other places and help deter drinking and driving. However, it has been shown that teens who start drinking before the age of 15 are 6.6 times more likely to become addicted or develop substance abuse problems than teens who postpone drinking. Also, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, there is no evidence suggesting that teens allowed to drink in the home are any less likely to drink elsewhere or drink with their friends.

Not sure how to talk to your kids about drinking? Check out our dedicated parent resource website: There are downloadable resources, as well as talking tips for parents with kids of any age. Our tip from Grand Futures: Although talking to your kids about substance use and abuse is crucial, modeling good behavior is one of the best things you can do for your child. It doesn’t sound like much, but by being a positive role model in your child’s life, you are setting them up for success.

It is one of Grand Futures’ most repeated slogans, but parents are the number one influencer in their children’s lives. More than friends, the media and celebrities, parents impact (both for good or for ill) how their children lives their lives. National surveys of 12 to 17 year olds were conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration which show that teens who believe their parents strongly disapprove of their substance use were less likely to use substances than others. Social Host fines in Steamboat start at $500 and can be as much as $1000. Penalties can also include jail time. If you don’t permit it, you don’t promote it. Think smart this summer, and don’t allow your underage child to drink.

Megan McCord is the Routt County Program Director for Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the only non-profit dedicated to preventing substance use and abuse in the 14th Judicial District. More information about how to keep your kids drug and alcohol free can be found at Megan is also a member of the Routt County Youth Services Coalition, whose site can be found at

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