The statistics are sobering. In a recent national survey of more than 2,500 eleventh and twelfth graders, 90 percent of teens believe their counterparts are more likely to drink and drive on prom night and 79 percent believe the same is true for graduation night.
What parents need to know is despite the tragic tales of reckless driving on prom and graduation nights, teens have a pervasive "it won't happen to me" attitude. Add to the alcohol factor distractions like texting or talking on the cell phone while driving, or the greater likelihood of multiple people in the car, and the crash potential is very real.
- Communicate, Communicate Ask where your children are going, with whom they will be and what they will be doing. Ask who and how they will be supervised at a party. Be wary of sleepovers and all night parties. For some teens, sleepovers are opportunities to use drugs, alcohol and/or have sex, and can put them under too much peer pressure. Teen use of alcohol can lead to unprotected sex or dating violence. If your teen is at a home party, be sure you and the supervising adults share the same values and expectations for behavior at the party. Check in by phone or drive over to make sure a responsible parent is supervising the event and your child is still there. Make sure your teen has a safe ride home at the end of the party.
- Get involved. Volunteer to supervise school or neighborhood parties. Offer to chauffeur kids to and from graduation celebrations. Host an alcohol free party at your home.
- Discuss Safety with Your Child Even if your child resists alcohol and drugs, he or she is still at risk for becoming victimized by them. Emphasize the importance of watching out for careless, and possibly drunken, drivers and using the "buddy system" so that he or she is with at least one friend at all times. Encourage your child to call you at any time if he or she needs a safe ride home or for any other reason.
- Be clear about what you expect and be firm. Around age 17 and 18 is a time when youth are expected to seek more independence and are often eager to separate from parental controls. The combination of more independence along with pressures to party and fears about what the future holds can make graduating students vulnerable. Talk with your teen about what is a reasonable curfew and stick to it. Have your teen check in often. Discuss in advance the consequence for breaking the rules.
- Encourage graduating teens to take healthy risks. It is normal and healthy for teens to take appropriate risks that help them to learn, develop independence, conquer fears and build confidence. Rather than celebrating the graduation rite of passage with drinking and sex, encourage your teens to celebrate with their friends and family in some creative and healthy ways.
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Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens. Read more.