Teach Teens Responsible Drinking During The Holidays

Parties and family gatherings, special foods and traditions can add stress to the list of holiday chores — be it sending cards, shopping, extra cleaning and excited, impatient kids.

With all the parties and entertaining, it’s also a time of year when we need to be mindful and take extra care when alcohol is a part of the festivities and celebrations. While it is a time to revel in holiday cheer, it’s important to talk with your kids about responsible drinking, the risks involved with drinking and why some people should not drink at all.

For those with teen drivers in the house, it might also be a good time to review a driving contract and emphasize that they never ride in a car with a driver that has been drinking.

Monitoring the alcohol in your home can also be an essential step in the party-planning process, especially if you have tweens and teens who may be tempted to take advantage of distracted adults during parties and family gatherings.

As for those permissive parents who may say, “I let kids drink at my house; it’s a lot safer than having them out somewhere else drinking,” new research shows that drinking at an earlier age under the watchful eye of parents seems to lead to higher rates of drinking and alcohol related problems.

Unfortunately, many parents believe that alcohol is a normal part of growing up, and overseeing this behavior helps teens learn responsible drinking later on; we now know this is not to their benefit. On the other hand, teens who aren’t allowed to drink at home and have higher levels of parental supervision are proven to be much less likely to drink outside the home in high school and college.

During the holiday break, working parents may also feel stressed with the challenge of keeping tabs on teens who want their freedom.

Steps you can take to reduce the chances that your kids will fill their free time with unhealthy activities include the following:

  1. Remind your kids about your expectations when it comes to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The Arizona Youth Survey found that students whose parents let them know that they think marijuana use is “very wrong” were significantly less likely to use it (23 percent) than those whose parents had even slight acceptance of its use (59 percent).
  2. Agree on rules for their free time, and follow through on the consequences if they break them.
  3. Remind kids of curfews and other times they are required to be home. Research shows that having family meals together just two to three days a week also helps keep teens from using drugs.
  4. Know where they are, who they are with and what they are doing. Unsupervised teens are more likely to get into trouble.
  5. Have them check in throughout the day. Set ground rules for them to respond to your efforts to reach them. (For example, say, “When I text or call, I expect a response within 10 minutes.”)
  6. Confirm that they are where they say they are. Don’t fall for the old scam “I’m at Jimmy’s house” because Jimmy is just as likely to have told his parents he’s at your house.
  7. Make it clear who is and who is not allowed in the house when you aren’t home. Talk about what is off limits, such as alcohol and medicines.
  8. Teach your kids how to turn down drugs so they will be prepared if faced with that decision.
  9. Reward your teens for being responsible over the holiday break. Helping them feel good about making good decisions develops their self-confidence and ability to trust their own judgment.

There are many ways to help keep the stress down and the “happy” in the holidays this season. Don’t expect things to be perfect, or exactly like they were last year. Be flexible on the things that aren’t that important and focus on those things that mean the most to you and your family. Remember, your presence and not the presents are the most important part of the holiday with your family.

For more information about how you can talk with your kids about responsible drinking and the risks involved, visit drugfreeaz.org.