A campaign called “A Conversation Worth Having” facilitated by the Chapel Hill Campus and Community Coalition is educating and encouraging parents to speak with their children about the dangers of underage drinking.
The coalition, a community-wide organization working to reduce the negative impacts of high drinking, is leading the campaign and has partnered with Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the Orange County Health Department, the Town of Chapel Hill and several other community organizations.
Campus and Community Coalition director Elinor Landess said the campaign is evidence-based and, therefore, specifically targets parents.
“Research tells us that parents are actually a leading influence in kids’ decision about alcohol and drugs,” said Landess. “All of the strategies and all of the data that parents will see in these messages come from research. So even if it’s a strategy like keep conversations brief, someone has done the study that says this is the best way to have conversations with your kids about tough subjects like alcohol.”
The campaign aims to answer three questions: why to talk to your kids about alcohol, how to have a conversation and how mental health and social media are related to underage drinking.
In early September, the campaign shared information about why it’s important to have these conversations.
Chapel Hill High School student assistance program specialist Jim Wise says one of the reasons for parents to have this conversation is for kids not to have to fill in the blanks with wrongful information.
In October, the campaign released information and suggestions about how to have the conversation.
Director of healthful living & athletics for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Scarlett Steinart says the campaign is aimed at children of all ages because it is best to begin the conversation early.
“Research shows that the younger you start having those conversations, the better kids understand, and of course you want to have those conversations all through a kid’s life, not just when they are in middle school,” said Steinart.
When adults want to have these conversations but aren’t quite sure what to say, Town of Chapel Hill senior ombudsmen Jim Huegerich suggests sticking to the facts.
“What folks think is normal, what young people think is normal, is not normal and so it’s important to show them the data to say, ‘This is what’s normal here in our community, this is what the surveys indicate,’” said Huegerich.
Wise agrees and suggests including facts on how the brain is affected by alcohol.
“The brain impacts, again, start to really resonate, because academic performance is so highly valued in this community. When you can talk about shrinking the size of your hippocampus and reduction of 33 percent of your memory recall ability with continued drinking, I say to kids, ‘So do you want to trade in your new phone or computer for one that’s 33 percent slower and has 33 percent less memory?’ And they start to think about that and they go, ‘Hmm, maybe that’s not it,’” said Wise.
The campaign also held a discussion panel, Talking to Kids About Alcohol and Substance Use, at the end of October that included panelists from UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, UNC Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and Community Involvement and Duke Adolescent Addictions Program.
Though the formal “A Conversation Worth Having Campaign” is coming to an end, organizers want residents to know that community-wide conversation has only just begun.
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