Talking with teens about alcohol.
Natasha from the MADD organization came and talked on the Dublin, SAPsv campus about “Teens and Drunk Driving”. She gave us some simple advice and encouraged each of us to talk to our teens. It is not the kind of conversation you want to have just once, but something that you want to discuss frequently. We can’t always be there to watch our kids, but we need to take the time to talk to them about drinking and driving.
We learned that “instead of forcing advice on an unreceptive teen, explain that you respect his or her decisions, but as a parent you care and would like to discuss the situation.” Say something like “It would make me feel more comfortable if we could talk about this.”
Here are the facts and ground rules to talk to your kids about:
• You can get into big legal trouble if you drink under the age of 21.
• Drinking can make you sick or pass out
• Drinking does affect the teen brain, causes a dependency, increases your risk of alcohol problems as an adult
• Drinking can lead to risky sexual behavior, sexual assault, or date rape
• Your grades may suffer
• Drinking can lead to early death
I know from my own experience with my teens that when I talk to them about these things I often get a “mom you are over-reacting” response. What I found works best is to stay consistent with my message and to make it clear about my views on drinking/driving as well as how they have to protect themselves and make sure that they do not get into a car if they suspect that the person driving has been drinking. You may offend someone by not getting in their car, but it is way better than taking a chance and getting hurt.
In the pamphlet that was handed out they listed some really simple techniques that your kids can use to resist peer pressure to drink.
• Simple one-liners: Its just not for me; its not what I want; I don’t drink or no thanks.
• Offering an alternative: I would rather have soda
• Making an excuse: I have a test to study for tomorrow
• Giving a short explanation: I really just don’t like the taste
• Changing the subject
I tell my kids that I expect them to not only watch their own behavior and not drink, but to also watch over their friends who are at the party with them. Don’t ever hesitate to call me if they need my help. My daughter has been at parties where one of her friends has over-indulged and she has had to round up her buddies to help her to get her friend home. Always have a buddy. Always watch out after each other. Teach your kids the importance of that as well.
As a parent of teens you also have to realize that you are responsible. Natasha told us about one parent who was on vacation and their child had a party at their house and there was drinking. The parent was not only fined, but required by the judge to attend classes and do community service. And to go one step further, a parent can be charged with vehicle manslaughter if a teen was drinking at their home, got in the car and someone was killed while they were driving. So not only will you feel horrible that a life was lost, but you will find yourself in jail as well. As a parent you are responsible financially and legally for the mistakes that your children make. Ignorance about the law is no excuse.
Here are a few other things you can do to get involved.
1. Participate in the MADD walk in San Jose. http://www.walklikemadd.org/index.cfm? fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=567 October 17, 2015 Kelley Park, 9:30am – 2:00pm. Your child can accompany you and earn community service points by being in the walk.
2. Most school even have ambassador programs where your child can learn some of these skill-sets and ways to handle these difficult but all too common situations. Ask your principle about this.
3. Look into installing a interlocking ignition device on your car. Once installed, the driver will first need to exhale into the device. Natash recommended this devices such as this https://www.smartstartinc.com/
4. Looking into getting monitoring camera’s at your home to be able to watch your kids in case you suspect that things are going on while you are away from home
5. Make sure that your alcohol is in a secure/locked cabinet and that your teens or their friends cannot get to it
6. Support education programs at your school. It has been found to be especially successful right before a PROM or school dance where kids may find it fun to drink afterwards.
7. And if you know of anyone that has experienced a loss due to drunk driving you can let them know that MADD is here to help. VICTIM/SURVIVOR 24-Hour Help Line 877.MADD.HELP
My kids know that I am there for them and their friends. It is something they never have to worry about. And while I know that they are not perfect, I am their parent. As a parent I will love my child, expect they will make mistakes and forgive them. Teach them the values and guide them so that they do not make those “poor choices” where there is no recovery. Drinking and driving is one of the poor choices that teens today are making.
You have the power to make a difference. You can help make the world a better and safer place. Set the right example for your teens in how you behave and the stories you tell your friends/kids about when alcohol was present. And talk to your kids about drinking and driving.
Live the message!
Talk to your teens!!
Don’t drink and drive!!!