A 17-year-old boy was recently killed on Block Island in a DUI accident when his 20-year-old uncle rolled a vehicle on Lakeside Drive. The driver had been drinking and his license had been suspended on a previous charge. He is now facing jail time, if convicted, and grieving the loss of a family member, which may be his fault.
Two lives and the lives of their family members were impacted by the influence of alcohol; one life forever changed in a way that will haunt him no matter what happens. If you are the parent of a teenager and you have not had a serious conversation about alcohol with your child, this tragic story should urge you to have a serious conversation with your teenager. While underage drinking may be a difficult topic, it is a topic that should not be avoided.
Get Your Teen Involved
Your teenager is no longer a child that you can watch all of the time to monitor his or her every action. When your child is young, you take every precaution to avoid situations where your child could be injured. However, as your children continue to grow older, you have to trust them to make good decisions on their own. One way to help teenagers make good decisions is by encouraging them to think about an issue instead of just following your rules.
Talk “with” your teens about underage drinking instead of talking “to” them. Ask questions to get them thinking about the consequences of underage drinking. Some examples of thought-provoking questions that can also begin a constructive conversation about underage drinking include:
- Do you think drinking alcohol is a problem for teens in your school?
- Do you know anyone in school who drinks alcohol?
- Could you tell if someone has been drinking alcohol?
- How do your friends deal with the pressure to drink alcohol?
- What advice would you give to someone who has been offered an alcoholic drink?
Questions like these encourage your teenager to take the role of a responsible party who is trying to help another person avoid making a mistake. This can be more effective than simply telling your teen that underage drinking is “bad” — this often puts your teenager on the defensive and he or she can simply shut down. It also helps your teenager understand the seriousness of the situation.
Give Them a Plan
Discuss various situations your teens may face. For example, going to a party where alcohol is served or responding to a friend offering them an alcoholic drink. Ask them what they plan to do rather than telling them the right course of action. Then discuss the pros and cons of that decision with your child.
Let your teenagers know that you will be there for them if they need a ride home. You want your teenagers to know you can be trusted to come pick them up without causing a scene or “losing it.” You want your teenagers to know if they make a mistake, you will not abandon them or hate them. Explain the importance of never getting into a vehicle with someone who has been drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Also explain how dangerous drunk driving and drugged driving can be for everyone.
Use the News
Teens often think it could not happen to them, so prove them wrong by pointing out news stories about other teens who were arrested for drunk driving or were injured in a underage accident. At this age, your teenager responds to facts better than to opinions from their parents. If you can show a teenager what happens when people drink and drive, it is more likely to make a greater impact compared to a lecture.
These teachable moments are the perfect opportunity to hear your teen’s thoughts. Instead of just giving your teenager your point of view, ask how the story impacts him or her. Be sensitive to your child’s feelings, especially if someone was hurt. At the same time, tragedies can hit home and encourage your teen to think twice before making a poor decision.
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