Prevention Before Celebration: Avoiding Underage Drinking

Prevention Before Celebration: Avoiding Underage Drinking

It’s that time of year when the Arizona weather isn’t too cold or too hot, and we all remember why we live in this great state. While we may be celebrating this beautiful time of year, our teens will also be celebrating prom and graduation at parties throughout the Valley. It is a wonderful time in their lives, but it also poses a risk for those who can too often be tempted by alcohol and other drugs.

We’ve all heard the stories of children who suffer injuries — in the worst cases, fatal ones — as a result of getting involved in bad situations during their year-end celebrations. In order to help prevent situations like this from happening, it’s up to us to be there for our children and help them avoid these risks.

Although drug use has declined over the past four years, surveys show that one in three high school seniors were drunk in the last month and more than one in five used an illegal drug.

Although your teen is on the verge of independence, they do need to know you care, now just as much as ever.

There are many ways in which parents can help keep their teens stay safe and healthy, which are listed below, but DrugFreeAz.org has also created a new online portal called the Video Learning Center — for teens and for parents — to help parents understand why kids use drugs, what happens to those who do and how to go about getting help if a teen is using, as well as for teens to hear stories of other teens who have used and how they needed help to recover. All of the stories feature Arizona parents and teens who have had their own life experiences with drugs or alcohol.

With celebrations aplenty this time of year, many parents may also default to “if you’re going to try it, try it here,” thinking that if their children are drinking or doing drugs under their supervision it won’t get out of hand, or they won’t be susceptible to the same risks. Don’t be this parent. Enabling is the same as encouraging your teens to think these habits are normal and to continue drinking illegally or doing drugs.

Underage drinking can seriously damage adolescent brain development, compromise athletic ability and cloud decision making. A recent study has also shown that kids who start drinking at 16 years of age are three times more likely to develop alcohol dependence problems as those who begin at age 21.

Prom and graduation are amazing times in our teens’ lives; help them remember it, and help them live through it by utilizing resources such as DrugFreeAz.org’s Video Learning Center, or the tips below.

Tips to a Safe Celebration:

Reinforce expectations

Being an upperclassman has its privileges, but it also has responsibilities. Reestablish the rules and the consequences for breaking them. While it may be OK to loosen the reins a bit, it needs to be clear that drinking and drug use remains unacceptable.

Make each moment count

Teens only get one junior and senior year. Let them know that you don’t want them to miss out on things, or not remember things, because of bad choices like drinking or drug use.

Help plan

Know your child’s party plans, including who they will be with and phone numbers where they can be contacted. Establish a curfew, call-in times and give the option of calling at any time for help or advice, which includes picking them up if needed.

Provide safe alternatives

Don’t be the enabler. Plan chaperoned, alcohol-free parties; suggest other activities, such as miniature golfing, going out to dinner or to the movies — things that offer a safe and fun alternative to parties with drugs and alcohol.

It only takes a few minutes to talk to our kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and it only takes a few minutes for them to decide to say “yes” or “no.” Be preventative, and help your kids stay on the right side of the decision making process. Those few minutes of time it may take can change an entire lifetime of consequences.

For more information about preventing underage drinking or for tips on talking to your teens, visit DrugFreeAz.org.