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Harmful effects of underage drinking focus of April 16 speaker

By KEVIN CEDERSTROM

Parents are encouraged to attend a presentation by a national speaker on April 16 to learn and understand the harmful effects of underage drinking.

Dr. David Walsh will speak at Park Rapids High School on Thursday, April 16 about how the young brain develops and how drinking affects teen health.

Dr. Walsh will also present, “Why Do I Feel That Way?” to students at Nevis School, 11:15 a.m., and Park Rapids High School at 2:15 p.m.

The event is sponsored by Hubbard In Prevention (HIP) and funded by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in partnership with CHI St. Joseph’s Health.

“The more parents understand about the harm of youth alcohol use, the more empowered and comfortable they are in having conversations with their children,” said Angela Graham, HIP Planning and Implementation Grant Coordinator.

According to information provided by HIP, a local survey shows most parents said their children should not be allowed to drink before age 21. However, Graham said, there is a great concern for those parents that would consider allowing their teen to drink.

Of Park Rapids ninth grade students who report past alcohol use, 91 percent report having had their first drink at age 13 or younger, according to data provided by HIP.

“By being proactive and starting early, parents can open lines of communication with younger children that will pay off when they reach their teenage years,” said Beth Heltunen, grant assistant with HIP.

The April 16 event begins with a free dinner at 5:30 p.m. for the first 150 participants, followed by Dr. Walsh’s presentation at 6:30 p.m. Childcare will be provided.

“Parents should take time to understand the harmful effects of underage drinking,” Graham said. “Parents can use this information to establish guidelines, develop rules, create consequences for underage drinking in their home, and start conversations about underage drinking with friends, neighbors, and others in the community.”

Heltunen added, “By being purposeful, parents can open the door to meaningful conversations about the healthy use and nonuse of alcohol.”

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