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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Child Health Month Focuses on Preventing Alcohol Abuse

LAS CRUCES - Children's advocates will look at ways to prevent kids from suffering the effects of alcohol abuse during October's Child Health Month.

More than 26 million children - about one in five - grow up in homes where parents abuse drugs or alcohol, said Diana DelCampo, child development and family life specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. Educators, parents, health professionals and community leaders will focus on breaking the cycle of alcoholism.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has sponsored Child Health Month for 60 years, bringing attention to such issues as immunization, prenatal care, teen health, preventing childhood injury and how day care affects child development.

This year's theme -- alcohol abuse -- will cover preventing fetal alcohol syndrome; how children are affected by growing up in alcoholic homes; and preventing underage drinking, drunk driving and binge drinking.

"Children who grow up with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs are greatly affected," DelCampo said. "They're more likely to miss school, make poor grades, drop out of school and become depressed or angry."

A more "frightening" statistic is that 70 percent of child abuse cases are related to alcohol abuse, she said.

"Another problem is that these children don't get any better, even if the parent dies or leaves the home," DelCampo said. "They need special counseling to help them work through problems, especially when you consider that alcoholism runs in families."

Children of alcoholics are more likely (13 to 25 percent) to become alcoholics themselves, she said. Others may marry alcoholics, she added.

"Kids need to know that they're not alone, they're not to blame for their parents' behavior, and they cannot prevent parents from drinking," DelCampo said. "They also should get out of the house and find help when they're in danger."

Parents who drink excessively are not bad people, but they do have a disease, she said. Children who realize that their parents need help to get better have a good chance of coping with problems.