By Mary Pat Angelini
Well, it is that time of year again… spring is in the air and we are all counting down the days till summer break. For many parents, this is also the time of year when our children are planning proms and graduation parties. We at Prevention First want to remind you to make this a safe and sober time for your children and communities.
Young people are bombarded with messages about alcohol every day. Unfortunately, many of these messages are not reality based … The reality is that underage drinking can lead to car crashes, drowning, personal injury accidents, unplanned pregnancies and school failure.
The messages parents send to children about alcohol are crucial. Many parents allow their teenage children to drink alcohol at home in an effort to teach them how to drink responsibly. They may have good intentions, but the results can be deadly. What parents do, in fact, is facilitate their child’s comfort with alcohol by sending a dangerous mixed message. Too many adults think underage drinking is harmless or worse — acceptable if parents take cars keys away from youth. Every year we hear about teens dying from alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related poisonings and drowning that occur after adults provide alcohol to youth. Nobody has the right to endanger the welfare of someone else’s child by providing them with alcohol.
Individuals who purchase, provide or pour alcohol for anyone under age 21, except their own child, is breaking the law and can be charged under state or municipal law. Underage drinking is illegal, has long-term health consequences and is a factor in all five of the leading causes of death among youth. We want this to be a happy prom and commencement season, underage drinking isn’t part of that picture.
So please make time to talk to your children and set clear boundaries. Surveys show that parents have a tremendous impact and influence on their children’s decisions about drinking. It is imperative that parents are aware of the risks posed to their children, most especially at this festive time of year. Proms, graduation and the parties that follow make this a perfect time to talk to your child about alcohol and to set up some prevention strategies.
Make a Safety Plan — Talk to your teen about not drinking and driving and not being a passenger in unsafe circumstances. Who will they call if they need a ride? Role-play some scenarios until you are sure they will not be pressured to take any unnecessary risks.
Hiring a Limo — Don’t leave the hiring to your teen. Make the arrangements yourself, and make it clear that the driver is to make no stops other than those you’ve pre-authorized. Ask what measures the driver takes to prevent the limousine from becoming a place for children to drink.
Renting Hotel Rooms — In general, hotels don’t rent to minors and need a parent’s involvement. A parent whose credit card is used is liable for damages, which can be considerable if a party gets out of hand. Don’t let your child attend a hotel party unless you know and trust the chaperones.
Throwing a Post Prom Party at Home – Make it clear that you won’t allow gate-crashers. Get advance agreement with your teen on the party rules. Greet guests at the door. Your teen will want you to keep a low profile, but it is responsible to circulate. Check your yard periodically. Do not serve alcohol.
If the party is at Someone Else’s House – Call the host parent in advance to find out the ground rules. Find out when the party will end and who will be chaperoning. If your child has more than one party invitation on prom night, it’s safest to have him/her pick one for the evening and not party-hop.
Prevention First has a wide variety of information regarding the dangers of underage drinking, the legal consequences of hosting underage drinking in your home and how parents and other family members can host safe and fun alcohol-free events for youth. Call us at 732-663-1800 Ext. 245 or visit our resource center for free information on this and many other related topics at 1405 Highway 35 North, Ocean Township or visit us on the web at www.preventionfirst.net.
Mary Pat Angelini is executive director of Prevention First.