MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — As many students returned to class this week, health officials in Skagit County say it’s important to talk with teenagers about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

Danica Sessions, the Community Health Coordinator for Skagit County, said her department, along with others across the state, are sending surveys to parents asking them questions like, "Do you think it's okay for parents to offer their teenage children an alcoholic beverage in their home?"

The idea is to compare kids' perceptions with what adults think and then find ways to best educate both. 

Research from Skagit County shows teens and parents are talking to each other less about drugs and alcohol as kids grow up.

Sessions wants to change that.

"We want to really encourage continuous conversations with kids and family members about these topics," she said. "I do think it makes a difference."

Many counties have seen the surveys work in recent years, pointing to a decrease in the number of teens stealing prescriptions drugs from their parents' medicine cabinets.

As for the question of whether to let your teens drink at home, Skagit County officials said that decision is up to the parents. However, health experts said teen drinking is unsafe and unhealthy in many ways, especially for the developing brain. 

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Sessions also pointed out that far fewer adolescents start drinking when their parents actively discourage it.

The biggest takeaway, Sessions explained, is that as teenagers test the waters of adulthood, what their parents say matters.

"They do listen," said Sessions. "Whether or not it looks like it, they do."

People can learn more about Skagit County's program here.

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