Teen drinking and DUI is still a huge problem in the US. According to Nolo, approximately 2,000 underage drinkers die every year at the wheel and in one third of all teen auto fatalities, alcohol is a factor. These 10 tips can help you increase your chances of preventing such a tragedy in your life.
Establish Rules about Drinking
Establishing and clearly communicating rules about drinking from an early age gives kids the best chance to understand what the expectations are and why they are there. Although kids may resist boundaries, down the road they will be grateful for them. Establishing a “no drinking” rule until age 21 and other guidelines, such as not attending any teen parties where alcohol is served, may seem stringent, but could be the literal difference between life and death.
Set a Good Example
Your example, set from the time your children are small will be one of the most important factors in helping them have the right attitude about drinking. Doing things like glamorizing drinking by telling stories of your teen years that included parties and drinking will undermine your efforts. Excessive drinking in the home will also lead to higher chances that your children will have problems with drinking and thus increasing the risk of drinking and driving.
Educate from an Early Age
Discussing the dangers of drinking from an early age will give your kids a far better chance of developing a healthy attitude about drinking. Talking in detail with your children about the risks and how gravely potential consequences can affect your life, as well as dwelling on the positive aspects of avoiding drinking altogether or at least until age 21. For small children there are many resources online for assisting parents in discussing these matters in a way that is appropriate for the age of the child. DUI Attorneys who have prosecuted teens convicted of DUI say that early education is a parent’s best ally.
Keep Communication Lines Open
Talking with your children about everything else in their life, and sharing your life with them will make it easier to keep open communications about issues such as alcohol usage. If parents generally don’t discuss things with their children until there is a problem and don’t openly talk about their own lives, it will be much harder and more awkward to haveconversations about things like alcohol.
Establish a Secret Phrase
If your teen should ever inadvertently find themselves in a situation where alcohol is available and present, such as at a friend’s house, it will be a lifesaver to have a secret phrase they can use in a text or phone call, like “when exactly do you want me home” or “I’ve got the flu” or something similar that only your family knows about. This will be your signal to immediately remove them from the situation.
Make a Plan with Other Parents
Talking openly with the parents of friends or in your particular community can be a great way to help your teen avoid situations that may compromise their willpower and commitment. If parents are combined in the effort to prevent underage drinking, the chances of kids getting caught in tough situations will be minimized. In some communities parents have formed official action plans and work together to prevent drinking and driving among teens. This is far better to establish before a teen is hurt or killed.
Clearly Teach Teens the “Why”
A philosopher, whose name is unknown is said to have stated “tell me sufficiently why a thing should be done, and I will move heaven and earth to do it.” This holds true for educating kids. If we can sufficiently explain to them the benefits of avoiding drinking and the consequences of underage drinking, we may help prevent tragedy in their lives.
Share True Stories of Victims
One aspect of teaching the “why” is to share stories of victims as appropriate for the child’s age and level of education on this topic. It is particularly powerful to review and discuss stories of real victims of teen drinking and driving. This is not in an effort to scare teens, but to connect them emotionally to the very real risks that underage drinking presents to them.
Consider an Ignition Interlock Device
In extreme cases, such as cases where teens may have lost trust or have had a particular problem with drinking and driving, an ignition interlock device can be used. This is basically a breathalyzer system that will not start the car unless the alcohol in the breath is under the legal limit for safe driving.
Use MADD’s “The Power of Parents” Program
MADD has some amazing programs, such as their “The Power of Parents” program that can help parents educate kids on the dangers of drinking and driving under the influence. These programs include step by step helps and are highly effective in facilitating communication with your teen.
Every parent should consider these tips and educate themselves properly so that the underage drinking and drinking and driving can be reduced significantly and lives can be saved.