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When It Comes To Underage Drinking, A Westchester Coalition Says Talking Early And Often Is The Key

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A joint effort from Heineken USA, White Plains Hospital, and the White Plains YMCA is telling Westchester residents to “talk early” and “talk often” about underage drinking.

A panel held in early September at the White Plains YMCA gathered together members including professionals from both White Plains Hospital and the YMCA to tackle to issue. Cindy Rubino, the CEO of the YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester said “this dialogue is really key for the community.”

So what can parents do to help prevent kids from harming themselves—and others—due to underaged alcohol abuse? Here are a few takeaways from the panel.

From left to rightAssemblyman David Buchwald (D), YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester CEO Cindy Rubino, and Dr. Erik Larsen

Act quickly if you suspect a child or young adult is developing an alcohol addiction.

Dr. Erik Larsen, the interim director of the emergency department at White Plans Hospital said one of the most dangerous aspects of underaged drinking was how quickly the behavior develop into a life-threatening vice.

“The problem is that they start stacking these doses,” Dr. Larsen said, adding that a lack of experience with alcohol results in children drinking to dangerous levels because they do not feel the effects instantaneously.

Be a role model. 

Dr. Bhavana Pahwa, program director of the White Plains Youth Bureau, said underage drinking prevention should be tackled not only from the perspective of a professional, but also that of a parent.

“I think it’s about adults really modeling positive behavior,” she said to a couple in the room that came to the event expressing concern about one of their children’s behavior. Pahwa said it was important to talk to children about how severely dangerous levels of alcohol can damage a developing mind and body, and make sure that they realize that it only takes one time for a life-altering tragedy to happen. Pahwa stressed the importance of positive environments, and starting early with explanations and education about alcohol makes a big difference, especially when it’s coming from parents.

Pahwa also said that simply being positive and engaged in your child’s life, along with some semi firm guidance can result in very safe and positive teenage years.

“If you keep kids positively engaged and instill hope in the future, they will be more inclined to stay away from these substances.

Each case is different.

While the experts and parents provided tips and tricks to help start the alcohol conversation, they stressed the importance of remembering that every child is different. Some will need more supervision than others. Some will respect a third party more than a direct authority figure like a parent or teacher. Talking about any kind of substance abuse with a child can be difficult at the best of times, and if an addiction has taken root the discussion can be even harder.

For more resources on how you can start a conversation about underage drinking, visit the Westchester County Office of Drug Prevention website or the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism page on preventing underage drinking.

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