Moms Talk: When It Comes to Teen Drinking, You've Got to Lay the Ground Rules
With prom right around the corner, are you prepared to talk to your teens about underage drinking?
Question: According to Students Across Drunk Driving (SADD), automobile crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, and 28 percent of those involving 15 to 20 year olds are alcohol related.
Over the years, students have signed "sober contracts" with schools and parents as a way to promise to stay clear of alcohol. Many schools have begun using breathalyzers for such end-of-the-school year celebrations. Mt. Hope High School has one that it will use only under suspicion. With senior prom only days away, how do you talk to your teen about underage drinking?
Rebecca's Answer: I can't stress this enough. This is exactly why establishing good communication with your children early on is so imperative. It may get tougher as they get into those tween years, but don't let go, don't give up, because in a few years these are the conversations that can drastically impact your child's future.
As I have mentioned in other Q&A articles, the scary topics at hand such as today's teenage drinking needs to be a conversation that is spoken of often, not just on prom night or a few big event evenings. Establishing ground rules about drinking lets your child know exaclty where you stand.
1. We disapprove of teenage drinking;
2. We still disapprove of teenage drinking if you are in a house with supervising adults;
3. BUT MOST OF ALL we do not want you drinking and then driving. So if you have been drinking, we promise not to get mad or punitive as long as you call us for a ride;
4. You are never to drive in any vehicle with a person who has been drinking;
a. You cannot drive your friend home because he had too much to drink;
b. You should never get in the car with someone who has been drinking;
c. And you should never get a ride from someone sober who has someone who has been drinking in the car with them.
These conversations need to be reiterated every weekend when they walk out the door, not just on special occasions. Kids need to be clear on what is expected of them. Do not be afraid to put high expectations on your kids, they will strive to meet those expectations. arents should never say to themselves, "oh but all the kids do it from time to time, I don't always want to nag when I know they are going to anyway." That is the wrong attitude to have and can only lead to disappointments.
Cindy's Answer: "You just have to have straight talk, no sugar coating it at all," she said. "The 'it's not going to happen to me' attitude has to be ruled out, because I am sure that all the other kids who died thought it wouldn't happen to them either."
Cindy brings up another excellent point when she says, "You have to know your child. Are they followers ? Will the peer pressure get to them? Are they not cool if they don't drink...of course not, but it's hard to tell that to a teenager."
Cindy agrees with me as she says. "I would sit them down and make sure that we had more than one discussion on the matter at hand. You can't just talk or warn them the night of because if they already have big plans, it will go in one ear and out the other. Talk about repercussions, what if they killed someone???!!! Talk it over more than once so they know that you are there for them, and also that you will not tolerate drinking/drugs of any kind."
The tough-love, no-nonsense advice she offers is, "Ask them if they like their life? And discuss the possibility of dying in an accident from drinking and driving, or even hurting someone else...either way their life will be over. Prom is for fun, to be with your friends, the end of a great year...more to come."