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OF TEEN DRINKING AND DRIVING
Most parents recognize August as the month their kids go back to school. I have a son going into the ninth grade and a daughter going into the 11th grade. They have their classes, extracurriculars, and many other things to look forward to. They’re both on the honor roll, and they both want to go to college. They’re looking forward to the independence inherent in the college experience, just like countless other high school students, and relishing any opportunity to be independent until then. As parents, we should encourage them to be independent but let them know it comes with responsibility.
Many times, teenagers will try to drive home drunk because they don’t want their parents to find out they’ve been drinking. While this is an incredibly stupid decision, as parents we hold some responsibility for educating our kids about the dangers of drinking and driving. Don’t just assume your kids aren’t going to ever drink alcohol. High school kids are going to drink — it’s just a matter of when and how much. When we talk to our kids about drinking and driving, we shouldn’t emphasize how much trouble they’ll be in if we catch them drinking. That’s only going to make them try to hide when they do drink. Instead, we should emphasize we want them to be safe and be up front with them about the dangers of driving under the influence. That way, if they find themselves at a party having had too much to drink, they’ll feel safe calling you. One practice I think is helpful is creating a contract with your kids. When you talk to them about the dangers of drinking and driving, write down on a piece of paper that you promise to come and pick them up wherever they are if they call you saying they’re too drunk to drive. Having tangible proof of that promise will help reassure your teen you’ll follow through on your end of the deal if they follow through on theirs. Teen drinking is on the rise everywhere, and no high school student can avoid it completely. But, if you let your kids know their safety is your priority, you can help them steer clear of the worst-case scenario.
“We should emphasize we want them to be safe and be up front with them about the dangers of driving under the influence.”
This is the first year my daughter will drive to school, and she’ll also be driving her brother since they now attend the same school. While teen driving comes with its own potential dangers, I think some parents may not fully grasp all the dangerous scenarios teens can encounter with their cars. Teenagers are exposed to drugs and alcohol at younger ages than ever before, sometimes as early as middle school. Combine this exposure with a driver’s license and a car, and you have a recipe for the worst kind of trouble.
– Daniel J. Miller
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