Monday, April 28, 2014

Parents: Don’t be a party to underage drinking this prom and graduation season

by Joy Spencer

Remember your prom experience? How about when you graduated from high school? While some things have changed, other pressures are exactly the same. 

Prom and graduation should be celebrated as alcohol and substance-free events. Unfortunately, statistics show that one third of the alcohol-related traffic fatalities involving teens each year occur during April, May, and June -- prom-graduation season. 

Parents can play a vital role in helping teens make good decisions about alcohol - which is great news. Research shows that regular communication between parents and their kids has a positive influence on the decisions that teens make.

What else can parents do?

  • Discuss rules for the celebrating: your own rules, the school rules, and the consequences for violating the rules.
  • Ask your teen for a complete itinerary for the evening, including where they'll be going before, during and after prom. If you have graduates, make sure you know where and when they will be celebrating.
  • Take inventory of the alcohol in your home and secure it, if needed. In a survey by the American Medical Association, two out of three teens aged 13-18 said that it is easy to get alcohol from their homes without parents knowing about it. One-third responded that it is easy to obtain alcohol from their own parents knowingly, which increases to 40 percent when it is from a friend's parent. And one in four teens have attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents. 
  • If you are hosting a post-prom or grad party, remember it is illegal to serve alcohol to minors. Some parents feel that hosting a house party where alcohol is served to minors is safer because they can control it. Allowing these parties is illegal, even with other parents’ consent. Hosts may be held responsible for consequences that result. Injuries and car accidents after such parent-hosted parties remind us that no parent can completely control the actions of intoxicated youth, during or after a party. And the main message children hear is that drinking illegally is okay. 
  • If your teen is riding in a limo, check the company’s policy on allowing alcohol in the vehicle. 
  • Do not rent hotel rooms or vacation rental properties for your teens.
  • Communicate with other parents about prom-graduation plans. 
  • Reinforce that they should get help if a friend is in trouble. Be available to provide a timely and safe ride home if needed. Let them know that they should call you if they need a ride home or get into a situation they know isn’t safe -- no matter what time it is, no matter where they are. 
  • Remind your teen that everyone has a camera these days. With security cameras, phone cameras and video cams everywhere, it is important your child realizes that they shouldn't do anything that might cause them embarrassment by ending up Facebook or YouTube. Unfortunately, what ends up on the internet and social media, stays on the internet and can be shared with hundreds of people very quickly. Not to mention their future plans for college could be jeopardized. A college acceptance can be revoked for illegal behavior and for getting expelled from high school. 

With good communication, firm expectations, clear ground rules, a little planning -- and lots of cooperation, parents and teens can both have a fun, memorable, and safe prom and graduation season. 
Here's to helping your teens create wonderful memories.

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