Many families across the country will be celebrating their teenager’s high school graduation. It is a very exciting point in the life of our children which is celebrated in a variety of different ways. Unfortunately, many of these celebrations will have very tragic consequences so it is very important that parents speak with their high school graduates about the many dangers that can occur as a result of exercising poor judgment. Consider the following, a recent report indicated that more than 1.2 million young people have engaged in binge drinking, almost half a million young people have an alcohol use disorder and sadly more than 1,300 young people die in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents each year. It is therefore critically important that these young adults are made aware of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
The first thing that should be impressed upon your teenager is the fact that underage drinking, in any circumstance, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It is very important that parents act as good role models for this type of conduct. We have all read about house parties that have been thrown by parents who serve alcohol in what they think is a controlled environment in order to allow their teenagers to celebrate but have later resulted in the death of one or more individuals as a result of being involved in an alcohol-related crash. Parents should never, ever, serve alcohol to minors as the consequences could be fatal. Teenagers should also be admonished about the fact that they are not to engage in underage drinking.
There are certainly circumstances where teenagers drink and later find themselves to be in a potentially dangerous situation. You should advise your child that if he or she is in a position where there is drinking and feel there is any type of danger involved or if someone is attempting to operate a motor vehicle after drinking, that he or she should contact you and use a prearranged codeword so that you know he or she needs to be picked up. The agreement should be that if you are called under this scenario that there will not be any type of negative consequence but that a conversation will later be had about exercising proper judgment in all situations.
Parents should also be very involved in the investigation of any post-graduation parties, gatherings or events. Will adults be present at these get-togethers? Who will be there? What is the telephone number of one of the parents so you can call and inquire about the event? There are far too many of these gatherings where either parents are not present, alcohol is served, there is no type of supervision, or there are situations that present an added element of danger such as pool parties, beach parties or other types of similar events. You want to be that parent who is going to investigate these post-graduation events. You want your children to know that you will be involved in monitoring their whereabouts and safety. You want to be that parent because you have a greater chance of protecting your child against some of these perils which might otherwise befall them.
Parents should also understand that a teenager’s brain has not yet fully developed and as such their ability to make reasonable and responsible decisions is physically compromised. If they drink or take drugs then their ability to make prudent decisions is greatly reduced. Young people also do not have the experience to fully understand the risks regarding their potentially bad behavior and finally, boys are more likely to engage in high-risk activities than are girls so it is very important that you have a very comprehensive conversation with your teen before he or she ventures out to post-graduation activities.
This is a very exciting time for many parents and their teenage graduates. Please enjoy all of the wonderful memories that will be formed and have a very safe graduation season. Above all, do whatever you can to ensure your child’s safety and take all reasonable and necessary steps to help protect them to the best of your ability.