– Holidays are a time for reflection and celebration. While this is also true for teens, in some cases, holidays are also a time for great temptation. From block parties to small family gatherings, celebrations of all sizes can lead to underage drinking, while alcohol is more plentiful and accessible and parents are distracted by the festivities.
Underage drinking is widespread problem among today’s youth. By age 18, more than 70 percent of teens have tried alcohol (according to the National Institutes of Health), and this statistic is especially alarming for parents of teenagers with their driver licenses.
“As a teenager, you do hear about other teens partying more during Christmas break because it is followed by New Year’s Eve,” said Kierra Keys, a 15-year-old from St. Petersburg who will be celebrating with her family at an alcohol-free party. ”I have just learned that it’s not a good thing.”
To help protect teens and the community this holiday season, Jackie Griffin, executive director of LiveFree! Coalition, an alliance in Pinellas County that promotes awareness about the harmful effects of substance abuse among youth, young adults and adults, offers the following tips:
• Lose the booze. Concerned about your teen attending a party where you know alcohol will be readily available? Considering hosting a kid-friendly, alcohol-free party for your family and friends. It’s the best way to eliminate temptation and ensure that everyone (even adults) get home safely.
• Do not take a vacation from vigilance. The kids are on vacation from school and things are likely very relaxed at home. But now is not the time to relax the rules. Store the alcohol in a safe place, keep an eye out for signs of drinking and remind your children of the consequences.
• Express your expectations. Talk to your kids about your expectations for them at holiday parties. Address alcohol head-on and reinforce the idea that while adults might be drinking, alcohol is not a party favor for everyone.
• Set an example. Remember that kids often learn by example. Do not drink excessively at holiday parties and ensure that you have a designated driver. If you are hosting, then make sure that your guests also have arranged for a sober driver and that there are plenty of non-alcoholic refreshments available.
“My older cousin sat down with me to talk about drinking and where you can end up if you drink,” added Keys who also tries to be a good role model for her younger sister and brothers. “It’s important to have family members who care, but you also need to have a strong mind to not be pressured into it. You are the one who has to make the decision to not drink.”
“The holiday season is a treasured time with family and friends. We need to do everything possible in keeping our youth and community safe and surrounded by positive adults setting the example,” added Griffin. “Taking the time to establish rules and open the lines of communication can really keep them safe this during the holidays and beyond.”
Looking for more tips for keeping teens safe and alcohol-free year round? Visit www.livefreeblog.org for some events, groups and ideas.