[This piece was written by Kimberly Aichner, LCSW-R, director of operations at St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center (SPARC).]
June in the Capital Region means high school graduation time, with weekends full of ceremony, laughter and even a few tears. For students and parents alike it is an emotional, memorable time. Along with the school-sanctioned events and family-friendly celebrations, however, there are also numerous after-parties that can be marred by alcohol and drug use, violence and other negative outcomes.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 75 percent of teens consume alcohol at some point during their high school years. So, even if your child is one of the 25 percent, chances are they will be around others who are drinking – especially during graduation weekend.
Another jarring statistic: The percentage of automobile fatalities that involve alcohol jumps from 33 to 40 percent on graduation night. And 1/3 of those under the age of 21 who die in accidents lose their lives during the graduation season.
Parents and guardians have to combat the feelings of youthful invincibility to which many adolescents are prone, particularly around special occasions like graduation. Parents can have a positive impact on youthful behavior by sharing real-life stories from their own adolescence and the current news cycle that highlight the negative outcomes of drinking and driving.
In fact, you’ve likely covered the topic of alcohol consumption and other behaviors with your teens more times than you can count. But perspective in 9th grade often changes by graduation. For your “refresher” conversation, you should touch upon the following:
- Absolutely no drinking and driving
- Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking
- When in the car, wear your seat belt
- Require phone numbers for where they are going in case you need to contact them (and not just their cell phones)
- Set personal boundaries and stick to them
- Parents/responsible adults need to be present at any parties they will be attending
If your child questions the reasons behind your rules, you can describe the effects of alcohol on the human body. The NIAAA suggests reminding them:
- Inhibitions and memory become affected when you drink – people may say and do things that they will regret later and possibly not remember doing at all.
- Decision-making skills are affected. They may be at greater risk for having an alcohol-related traffic crash, getting into fights, or making unwise decisions about sex.
- Coordination and physical control are impacted; even normal activities can become more dangerous.
- Consuming too much alcohol can also lead to death. If people drink too much, they will eventually get sleepy and pass out. Reflexes like gagging and breathing can be suppressed. That means they could vomit and choke, or just stop breathing completely.
For adolescents (ages 13-18) with alcohol and substance abuse problems, St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center offers a variety of age-appropriate therapeutic and educational programs that address the problems teens face with their peers, families and schools. For more information about SPARC, call 518-452-6700.