If you are the parent of a teenager, how confident are you that your child does not drink alcohol?
Your confidence might be misplaced, says Michael Winkler, a senior at Bryan Station High and chairperson of the Fayette County Youth Coalition for Alcohol Education.
The coalition consists of high school students and is affiliated with the Keep It Real — Don’t Drink campaign, a community-wide effort to eliminate underage drinking.
Coalition sponsors are the Mayor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse and MADD KY.
“Many parents are oblivious,” says Winkler. “They’d like to believe it’s not their kid, that their kid is the good one.
“But many parents are kidding themselves.”
Winkler, quarterback on the Bryan Station football team, knows that alcohol use is common among his classmates.
He has seen it at high school basketball games when it’s clear that many of the loudest fans are inebriated.
“When you see 35 guys gathered around two cars in the parking lot, it’s a sure sign they are drinking,” he says.
Winkler, who will play football at Georgetown College, doesn’t drink.
He knows the damage that alcohol can wreak — his birth father could have played football at the University of Miami, but alcohol ended his career.
Winkler and his adoptive parents, ministers Scott and Susan Winkler of the Old Union Christian Church in Lexington, “never touch alcohol and allow no alcohol in the house.”
Another teen who has embraced the anti-alcohol message is Renee Brown, a Lexington Catholic sophomore who will follow Winkler as the Youth Coalition chairperson.
“Alcohol impairs your judgment, causing you to make decisions that you wouldn’t make if you were in the right frame of mind,” she says.
What’s a parent to do?
Winkler and Brown have these suggestions to parents of high school students:
Open channels of communication.
This gives parents a better understanding of their teen’s life, and teens realize that parents care about them.
Ask who your teens are hanging around with and where they are going. When your teen says he is spending the night at a friend’s house, ask for the phone number.
Get involved in her life.
Go to the basketball and football games your kids attend. Volunteer at the school. Get to know their friends. Be attentive.