Social trends come and go, but consuming alcohol will always attract American teenagers, because it’s illegal, potentially dangerous and associated with feeling sexy and having fun with friends.
The kids know that the possibility of something bad happening exists, but peer pressure and a teen’s sense of immortality can impact their decisions.
If you are shaking your head in denial that your family might be affected, just look at the bigger picture of your teenager’s social world. There is a lot going on that impacts the safety and happiness of even the non-drinking teen.
While researching this subject, I asked several moms of teens to share their concerns and insights.
Deanna Kline, a nurse who is also a parent of three teenagers in a small Iowa town, informed me that the cases of alcohol toxicity that she sees in the hospital emergency room, while infrequent, are usually girls. That relates to the concern that Julie Chernoff of Evanston, shared with me about girls drinking to enable “slutty behavior,” so that they can dance and flirt and be like the perceived popular girls.
One mother told me that teens in her son’s peer group combine drinking alcohol with Red Bull, so the caffeine drink will counter the sedating effect of the alcohol, allowing greater consumption of alcohol. Party on!
The thought of their teens drinking and driving or riding with a driver who has consumed alcohol is terrifying to parents. Crosses by the roadside, surrounded by mounds of drying flowers and sad stuffed animals, are too often souvenirs of prom night and other happy teenage celebrations.
It’s not just about prom night. Our children will grow up and leave home, and they will need to be armed with decision making skills that will guide them through their adult lives.
How can we parents, grandparents, teachers and counselors support them as they go forward? We can learn the facts about underage drinking, and we can strive to have open and honest dialogue with those teens we love. We can be role models for our children.
Talk with teens, not at them. Express your feelings and ask them to help you understand them and know their world.
Teens and Alcohol is an excellent online summary of quick facts, tips for parents, and tips for teens who want to say, “No!” to alcohol.
Parenting Skills: 21 Tips & Ideas to help you make a difference by Barry R. McCaffrey, Director Office of national Drug Control Policy contains suggestions and insights for how parents can influence their kids’ alcohol and drug use