Note to Readers: Teens and drunk driving is a situation we as parents must do our best to prevent from happening. Drug and alcohol testing is a controversial subject, but I believe is using drug and alcohol testing as an empowering tool. Even the strongest most confident teen may find themselves in a situation where they will appreciate being able to say, “ I can’t drink, my mom and dad test me and I will get caught.” Introduce testing long before you suspect anything and explaining to them that you are doing it so that they can “blame their crazy parents” and you and your teens will be glad you did. Thanks to Cindy for sharing her tips to prepare our teens for the temptations of drinking.
By Cindy Springsteen
This time of year with all the good cheer and happiness that goes on, also something very dangerous seems to go along with it. This is not to say that this doesn’t happen all year long, but for some reason during the holiday season more of this happens than other times of the year. People are behind the wheels of their cars and driving drunk. They seem to feel that they are capable of driving and think nothing bad will happen to them. As this is also a stressful time of year for some, even for teens as I discussed in a previous article, they may attempt things that they may not have thought of doing before.
We all know that the drinking age is 21 years old, yet we also know that this doesn’t mean anything to the teens and young adults of today. In a sense I think there is more illegal drinking going on than I have ever heard about before. Telling our teens not to drink or believing that they won’t is not going to change the reality of what is really going on out there.
Teens are drinking, they are getting it from older siblings, stealing from their houses or buying in stores that don’t seem to care if they are of age. They are drinking walking around the streets and at houses with parents that aren’t home. Teens have a tendency to “binge drink” before heading out to parties or out for the evening. This is extremely dangerous as “binge drinking” will cause them to drink much faster in order to not get caught.
The older teens that have a license and a car are also behind the wheel thinking that they can still drive. I feel that I must add in that grown-ups are just as bad when it comes to this as many teens are. Also an important factor to mention is according to much research the teenage brain is not even fully developed until somewhere between the ages of 21 and 25 years old. This information has been proven scientifically and is a main reason why teens are not necessarily stubborn or want to make bad choices; they truly don’t have the brain function to make proper choices for themselves.
So what can we as parents do? In most cases our teens are not going to admit to us that they are drinking. This doesn’t mean that we can’t talk to them about this issue. Remember they think they are indestructible and invincible, didn’t we all at one time? Yet, we see and hear every day of alcohol poisoning, over dosing, car accidents and death as a result of this behavior. Also remember to them it’s party time, it’s the holidays and they want to be with their friends, who might be drinking.
Depending on their age and what you believe the situations that your teen may be placed in, the following is a list of things that should be discussed with your teen/older teen before the holiday parties begin.
Tips to help/discuss with your older teens/young adults of driving age:
- If they are going out with friends and you know for a fact there will drinking. Ask them to designate a key patrol person who is in control of making sure no one gets their car keys back even if they have only had one drink! This should be a strong person as in a drunk state they might be given a hard time if they refuse someone their keys. If they discuss this ahead of time and not during the party night they will be more likely to be open with regard to doing this.
- Set up designated drivers. For one reason or another you will always find someone not drinking. If they set up car pools with others and split gas expenses this might go over a little easier. Each week or new party/event make a different person the volunteer to not drink and make sure that everyone gets home safely. Again, this is best set up when everyone is sober. No one wants to die or get in an accident.
- Things happen if something unexpected arises, make sure they find a sober person to drive. If they can’t find someone make sure they understand as much as you will not be happy about this let them know they can call you anytime of the night and you will come to wherever necessary to pick them up to make sure they get home safely. We parents would rather be woken up than to find out they were too afraid to let us know and wind up in an accident. If your younger teens are with older teens that drive or siblings make sure you explain they are not to get in a car under any circumstances with someone who has been drinking, back to call home anytime rule.
- No matter what, do not let a friend or anyone you know get behind the wheel of a car and drive. Do not believe when they say “I only had one hour ago.” One is all it takes! They may get mad at you, but if they are really your friend when they are sober they will understand that you cared enough about them and yourself to not let them get behind the wheel. Everyone wants to have a good time, but no one’s life is worth the risk or taking a risk with someone else life they are responsible for, or possibly an innocent persons life.
- For our illegal not driving drinkers, we don’t want to admit it but we know it is happening, talk to them! They are not going to like what you say, but this is such a dangerous time of year. Not to say the rest of the year isn’t dangerous it always is, but this time of year things seem to happen more so. Make sure there are serious consequences should you find out they were involved in doing this. Check them closely when they come home, make sure your awake. Look for signs that they have been drinking and smell their breath.
- Let your teens know how much they mean to you and how much you love them! Show them this article. Then show them pictures of teen drunk driving accidents and video’s they all love those videos on “YouTube.” Do this during a time, not right before they are walking out the door, find a good time to share all this information and maybe we can all work together and save some lives this Holiday Season?
Cindy Springsteen is a published poetry writer, whose first children’s book “Waffles and Pancakes” will be released in the Spring of 2012. She has been writing since she was in her teens. She is also am editor/freelance writer for Patch.com. Many of you many know her as CindyTeenAdvice on twitter. She spent many years researching and writing about parenting teenagers for various publications, along with her own website www.cindy-springsteen.com.You can also follow her on Facebook.