Eight tips to keep your teen safe this holiday season

‘Tis the season for students around the state to reunite with former classmates and hometown friends. This time of year it is important for parents and their high school- and college-age students to recognize that underage drinking and drug use can lead to devastating consequences.

To help ensure that celebrations are safe and enjoyable, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership is offering parents eight tips for keeping their children in their teens and early 20s healthy and safe this holiday season.

“It’s important for parents to know that they are still the strongest influencers in the lives of their children, even during the teenage years,” said Jill K. Spineti, Partnership president. “We remind parents to take time out during the stress of the holiday season to talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use.”

The statistics

Nationwide, about 5,000 teens die each year as a result of underage drinking, including from motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning, and unintentional injuries.

“The risks are real,” said Rachel Bruno, Partnership program manager, “and we encourage parents to serve as the first line of defense by educating their teenagers about why underage drinking is so dangerous.”

Bruno said teens who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol at home are up to 50% less likely to use substances.

The eight tips

Make time to talk:  While the holiday season is a time for young people to meet up with old friends, it is also a time to connect with family. Talk to your teen or young adult child about the risks of underage drinking and drug use, while encouraging him or her to spend quality time with both family and friends.

Don’t relax your rules just because it’s the holiday season:  Teens still need limits and close monitoring. Expectations may need to be re-negotiated or reiterated for college students returning home.

Ensure alcohol won’t be served at parties your teen attends:  Check in with the parents of your teen’s friends, even though this may be unpopular with your son or daughter. Also, be available to provide a ride home if something unexpected happens.

Be aware that unsupervised teens are at risk for alcohol use:  If you leave home for a night of celebration, unsupervised teens may get into your liquor cabinet. Be sure to lock alcohol up and set expectations for having friends over. If possible, have another adult stop by to check in with your child.

Supervise your own parties:  If you host adult parties in your home and plan to serve alcohol, keep a clear head so that you can supervise any teens who may be present. Make sure that you or another adult is monitoring the situation and keeping an eye on both the alcohol and teens at the party.

Be sure to lock your medicine cabinet:  Alcohol isn’t the only substance that is easily accessible to teens. Prescription drug abuse among teens is growing rapidly so it is important to keep your medicines locked away, whether you are hosting a party or leaving your house unattended.

Be a good role model:  Show your kids that you know your own limits, always designate a driver and never let someone drive away from your home intoxicated.

Remember the law:  Remind yourself and your teens that there is a social host law in Connecticut that prohibits any youth or adult from allowing underage access to alcohol.

Help for parents

Take a look at “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Underage Drinking” by going to www.preventionworksct.org.

With a focus on Connecticut’s youth, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership is a statewide nonprofit public-private that concentrates on mentoring and prevention of violence and bullying, underage drinking, and alcohol and drug abuse.