It’s Never too Early to Talk about Alcohol and Drugs

The message at a Preteen Alliance luncheon held March 3 was clear — start talking before kids start drinking.

The luncheon speakers, David Mineta, deputy director of Asian American Recovery Services, and Mary Bier, coordinator of the Partnership for a Safe and Healthy Pacifica, discussed a tragic alcohol-related accident that prompted Pacifica to organize a community-wide effort to prevent substance abuse among youth.

The Partnership was formed shortly after the deaths of 19-year-old Jonny Bier, Mary’s nephew, and 16-year-old Stephanie Echeverri, who were in an alcohol-related car accident.

David and Mary have made it a priority to encourage local families to help children understand the consequences of alcohol use. The speakers stressed that adults can help a child develop a healthy lifestyle and prevent alcohol use by focusing on the 40 developmental assets identified by the Search Institute.

Specifically for preteens, these assets include:

  • Positive communication between parent and child
  • Supportive relationships with other adults that are not a part of the family
  • Clear and consistent rules and consequences within the family
  • Opportunities to help others in the community
  • Helping preteens feel valued and appreciated by the adults in their life
    Read all 40 Developmental Assets for preteens.

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health also presented some data from to illustrate the rates of teen drinking and drug use locally. These data include:

  • In 2016, 43 percent of public school students in grades 7, 9, and 11 in San Mateo County and 38 percent in Santa Clara County said they have tried alcohol at least once in their lifetime.
  • Also according to 2016 data, the percentage of students who reported having used alcohol, inhalants, marijuana or other drugs in the past month increased from seventh to 11th grade.
  • In the Bay Area, 92 percent of parents said they are not at all concerned that their child is engaging in alcohol use, according to a 2016 poll of parents.

More than 70 people attended the luncheon at the Redwood City library and many noted their desire to learn more about how to talk to preteens to prevent alcohol use. A list of tips and resources is available here on this website. Also, leave a comment if you have suggestions for how parents and service providers can talk to preteens about this important topic.