The holidays can provide happiness and excitement as friends and family come together for celebrations. Yet, celebrations also provide increased opportunity for teens to experiment with alcohol as it becomes more accessible during the holiday period.
"It's important for parents to take time during the holiday season to talk to their kids about the dangers of underage drinking and drug use, and to remain vigilant," said Department of Public Health Commissioner Jewel Mullen, in a prepared release. "Parents are still the strongest influencers in their children's lives, even during the teenage years, and we want to ensure that our most precious resource-our young people-stay safe this holiday season."
According to The Governor's Prevention Partnership, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and safety of the state's young people, teens who learn about the risks of drugs and alcohol at home are 50 percent less likely to use substances.
The Partnership reminds parents that underage drinking and drug use lead to negative and sometimes tragic consequences that can be avoided. To help ensure that the holidays are safe and enjoyable, The Partnership is offering parents "tips for keeping teenagers healthy and safe this holiday season."
"Unfortunately, children don't always recognize the risks involved with underage drinking and drug use," said Jill Spineti, President and CEO of The Governor's Prevention Partnership. "In fact, the most recent Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) found that 45 percent of teens reported they viewed 'heavy daily drinking' as no big deal."
"The fact is that across the nation approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die each year as a result of underage drinking, including motor vehicle crashes, alcohol poisoning, and unintentional injuries," said Spineti. "The risks are real, and we encourage parents to serve as the first line of defense by educating their teenagers about why underage drinking and drug use is so dangerous."
Help for Parents
The Partnership offers a downloadable "Parent's Guide to Preventing Underage Drinking" (to access, visit www.preventionworksct.org/parentguide), and also offers these tips for parents:
Make Time To Talk.
While the holiday season is a time for young people to reunite and hang out with old friends, it is also a time to connect with family. Make the time to talk to your teen about the risks of underage drinking and drug use, while encouraging him or her to balance time between family and friends.
Don't relax your rules just because it's the holiday season.
Teens still need limits and close monitoring. Expectations such as curfews may need to be re-negotiated or reiterated for college students returning home. Remind your teen of your expectations that he or she does not drink or experiment with drugs.
Ensure alcohol or other substances won't be available 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 sure that teens don't have access to alcohol or other substances in your own home.
If you leave home for a night of celebration or are busy hosting your own holiday party, unsupervised teens may be tempted to get into your liquor cabinets. Be sure to lock up your liquor cabinet. It is also important to set expectations for having friends over while you're away. If you host adult parties in your own home, make sure you or another adult is monitoring the situation keeping an eye on both the alcohol and teens at the party.
Don't forget that the liquor cabinet isn't the only cabinet that must be secured
On an average day, 2,500 teenagers will try prescription medications. This is due in large parts to the fact that they are so accessible in kitchen drawers and bathroom cabinets. It is important to take the time to make sure that all of your medications and prescriptions are secured.
Finally, 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.
This information was provided by The Governor's Prevention Partnership, a statewide non-profit public-private alliance.