There are many challenges during the holiday season. The holidays can be very emotional, they can create stressful situations where families get overwhelmed, work too hard to have a nice celebration, spend too much money or have unrealistic expectations about the holidays.
Another challenge is that it is not unusual for adults and teens to be attending the same functions and alcohol is often available at most of these parties. Alcohol may be put out on a table where there is no supervision in regard to people helping themselves to drinks, there might be someone serving drinks who is not monitoring a young person who asks for a drink and at a crowded party-setting it can be difficult for parents to keep track of their children.
It can also be upsetting for young people to see adults consuming a significant amount of alcohol as part of holiday celebrations or driving under the influence. When parents drink and drive, teens may think that it is okay for them to drink and drive. To offset the impact of this reality, parents can be pro-active in terms of keeping their teens safe and healthy during the holiday period. First and foremost, try to be a good role model for your teens and if you are not, admit that you have made some unhealthy choices but want your children to be healthier than you.
Also talk about the ways in which the holidays can be a difficult time for some people and that they may look to alcohol to help them socialize or as a way to deal with stress, unhappiness or depression. Brainstorm with children better and healthier ways to deal with these issues and point out that alcohol is a depressant and that it can actually aggravate these conditions.
Remember, what you permit, you promote. Set clear a clear and consistent “no use” messages about drugs and alcohol. In particular, let your children know that just because it is the holiday time and many of the adults around them are drinking, it is your expectation that they will not drink.
It is also important for young people to realize that small amounts of alcohol or other drugs can impair a young person and cause them to fall or have other accidents that could result in serious consequences. There is also concern about the growing misuse of prescription drugs among teens and adults and young people may not realize that just taking one pill could impact them in a serious and destructive way.
In addition to these suggestions, there are additional things that parents can do to keep adolescents safe during the holiday period.
• Begin by making sure that your teens are in a safe and chaperoned environment. When teens are “home alone” they are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol and engage in other risky behaviors.
• Consider signing a “Contract for Life” with your teen. This contract is between a parent and teen and states that parents agree to pick up a teen who needs a safe ride home or provide cab fare with no questions asked. The goal is to keep children safe for the moment and other concerns can be dealt with at a later date. The contract is available on the Internet at www.madd.org.
• Clean out medicine cabinets so prescription and non-prescription drugs are not available to guests using your bathroom.
• Teens who babysit are often forced with the dilemma of riding home with an intoxicated employer or telling that employer that they will have someone pick them up or are meeting people nearby. All parents need to discuss with teens who babysit options for getting home safely. Parents should let their teen know where they are during the evening when their child is babysitting and let them know that that you are available to come and pick them up.
For more information on this topic, and related topics, please visit powertotheparent.org. This new website is sponsored by The Westchester Coalition for Drug and Alcohol Free Youth. It is designed to support parents in being the first line of prevention between their teens and alcohol and other drugs.