First Night Festivities – Tips for Teens
Hanging out and driving with friends, and the possibility of exposure to alcohol and drugs are risks teens face all year round but can be especially risky during the holiday season.
- According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, teenagers are more likely to use drugs or alcohol when they are with friends and peers.
- According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 15-20 year-olds are the leading age group involved in traffic accidents, and these incidents are the leading cause of death for this age group.
- According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Safety Council, holidays, especially the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, are when the most traffic accidents involving teens and in general take place. This is largely due to alcohol consumption.
However, you can help to minimize the likelihood your teen will be involved in these risky behaviors and still allow them to ring in the New Year with their friends. Here are a few tips to begin the dialogue with your teen and ensure a safe and healthy New Year's celebration.
Talk to your teen: party do's and don'ts
- Develop family rules. Set some ground rules about drug and alcohol use and its consequences. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism gives some examples for parents, including informing your teen that consuming alcohol is illegal until she is 21, telling her that she may not drink until she is 21, asking older siblings not to encourage drinking in younger siblings, requesting your teen to leave parties where alcohol is present, and advising her not to get into a car with someone who has been drinking.
- Tell your teen the truth about alcohol. Talk to your teen about what he believes about consuming alcohol. There are many myths out there that your teen might have heard and that you may have to correct. Some of these may include it’s better to drink beer, coffee will sober you up, or a hangover is the worst thing that can happen. Visit Mothers Against Drunk Driving for a list of common myths about alcohol among teens.
- Keep track of your teen. Ask your teen to invite friends over when you are home so that you can get to know them. Stay informed of your teen’s activities, plans, and whereabouts. Know whom she will be with and what kind of supervision there will be. Set a curfew, and find out who will be driving if your teen will be getting a ride. If you keep alcohol in your home, monitor the supply. Connect with parents of your teen’s close friends. They will very likely have similar thoughts and rules around curfews, parties, and alcohol and drug use.
- Check out the social scene. If your teen is invited to a party, make sure an adult will be present, and that alcohol will not be allowed. Make sure you have the address and phone number of the house, and make sure your teen is able to reach you if necessary. Let him know when he will be picked up or when he needs to be home. Have him wake you when he arrives if you are sleeping.
- Host a party. If your teen asks to have a party, set clear rules ahead of time. Have her create a guest list and limit the number of friends; 10-15 teens may be more than enough for one adult to handle. Do not serve alcohol or allow it to be brought into your home, and look out for signs of alcohol use. As an adult, you are responsible for anything that happens to a minor who consumes alcohol in your home. Set an end time for the party and make sure that guests have safe transportation home. Finally, be visible without joining the party.
- Have a plan. No matter how many house rules you set or that your teen knows it is illegal, once he is with his peers he may engage in reckless behaviors. Be prepared for this by making a plan with your teen for when he finds himself in these situations. For example, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), formerly known as Students Against Drunk Driving, urges parents and teens to sign ‘Contracts for Life’. SADD believes that parent-child communication is important in ensuring that teens make healthy decisions. This document, a sample of which can be found at http://www.sadd.org/contract.htm, states that a child will make his best effort to avoid drug and alcohol use, drive under the influence, or ride with an impaired driver, and that he will wear a seatbelt. As a parent or guardian, signing the document ensures that you will understand and communicate with your teen, provide safe transportation home if and when it is needed and postpone any discussion to a time when it can be conducted calmly and rationally. You also commit to wearing a seatbelt yourself and to seek safe and sober transportation home if and when needed.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.