The festive lights that started twinkling along 5th Ave – despite it seeming as if we had only just gotten to this side of Halloween – weren’t enough of a sign for me. It wasn’t until after my family’s own Thanksgiving dinner, when I loosened my belt a notch, that it hit me. The holiday season is upon us, in full swing – with all of its candles and lights, connecting with family and friends, eating and drinking, gift-giving, celebrating, and of course partying.
It is also a time when your teenagers will be out of school and facing much less structure and supervision. School breaks typically mean lots of freedom and time spent socializing with friends, not to mention the increased access to alcohol that comes with the parties. Many work hard to find positive activities for their teens during the holiday break from school. But even so, a lot of teens are left seeking something to do with the idle time in between. And because boredom is a major reason teens give for substance abuse, even the most trustworthy can be at risk.
Additionally, The Brookline Parents Education Network reports that New Year’s Eve, in particular, can be a difficult night for parents to set guidelines for their teens. More than any other event, this night is associated with drinking. Many kids have internalized a dangerous and false message: “Unless you are at a large gathering of friends drinking, you are a loser.” They put pressure on their parents to let them attend unsupervised parties and sleepovers. Parents may be out with their own friends and less vigilant about supervision. And children may be less forthcoming about where they will be, and with whom.
Here are 5 tips parents can use to keep their teenagers safe during the holiday season and into the New Year:
• Be sure your teen understands that drinking under the age of 21 is illegal and unacceptable.
• Know where your teen is going, and ask lots of questions. Who will be there? Will alcohol or other drugs be present? Will adults be home? Do those adults tolerate drinking in their home?
• Discuss with your teen situations in which he or she might be offered drugs or alcohol, and plan ways for how they can respond. Be sure your teen knows to call 911 immediately if a partygoer needs medical attention. For tips on how to talk to your teen and for strategies he or she can use to decline drugs or alcohol, see our Parent Talk Kit.
• Make a plan with your teen for how he or she will get home. Remind him or her never to get in a car with a driver who has been using drugs or drinking. Provide money for a taxi or public transportation if it is available and safe in your area. Make an agreement with your teen that if he or she calls to ask for a ride, you will come immediately (no matter where or what time), with no questions asked until later. Here is a contract you and your teen can use to establish a clear understanding of acceptable actions.
• Be a role model, and know that your behavior is a major influence on your child. Drink responsibly, and don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. Never get in a car with a driver who is under the influence. Safeguard your prescription medicine and only use it as directed by a doctor.
What challenges or concerns are you facing this holiday season? Please use the comments section below to share any ideas or questions you have about keeping your teens safe through the New Year.
On behalf of the Partnership at Drugfree.org, I wish you and your family a safe holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year