High school students across the United States are getting excited for the 2017 prom and graduation season.
All the fun parents remember about those days still exist: dress shopping, tuxedo rental, flowers, photographs, parties. But there also remains a strong temptation to engage in underage drinking.
According to a 2016 poll, alcohol use is the No. 1 social issue students face, especially on prom night. Statistics from the AAA Teen Survey and Mothers Against Drunk Driving indicate the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in teenagers’ lives.
A majority of teenagers — 75 percent — say they’ve been peer pressured into drinking. Further, 31 percent admit to having used drugs or alcohol on prom night. In turn, 19 percent say they have ridden in a car with an impaired driver. Of all teens involved in fatal automobile crashes, 20 percent were reportedly under the influence.
How can we help these bright young stars of tomorrow resist that urge to imbibe today? Here are three steps parents and guardians can take to help keep adolescents safe during these rites of passage and beyond.
Set ground rules. A prom-going or graduating student may be just around the corner from adulthood, but you still call the shots. Agree to check-in times to confirm whereabouts and company, and enforce a curfew. Through plain communication, discourage drug and underage alcohol use — it’s illegal and can increase risky behaviors, including sexual activities for which a teen may not be prepared.
Find the exit. Even when all the ground rules have been followed, teens can wind up in unexpected situations where drinking and drugs are present. Equip your student with cash for cab fare if a quick getaway is needed. Also, let your teen know that you (or another trusted adult) will be available any time during the night to provide a safe ride home.
Share resources. Reach out to your student in ways that resonate with his or her generation. Teenagers may roll their eyes when an adult tries to talk about drinking and other tough coming-of-age topics, but they might click on a link in a brief, well-timed text with less resistance. Sites like whoyouwant2be.org provide free information to help teens, parents and educators tackle issues facing adolescents.
Stephanie Terry is a clinical manager in family services for Centerstone, a nonprofit health care organization.