Holidays are synonymous with celebration, and in the minds of many, celebration is synonymous with uncontrolled alcohol consumption. This isn’t ideal in any context, but this attitude is especially unfortunate when it influences young people.
Teenagers don’t drink quite as much as they used to. But 68 percent of all 12th graders have tried alcohol at some point according to the latest statistics, so it is clear that most teens still see drinking as a legitimate source of entertainment and a meaningful rite of passage into adulthood. Holidays provide the perfect excuse for drunken revelry among subsets in every demographic group, but when the drinkers are teens, the risks associated with this behavior soar toward infinity. Kids face drastically increased risks of violence, accidents and arrest when under the influence of alcohol, and car crashes caused by drunk or stoned driving are all too common when teens spike their socializing with intoxicants. Teens driving while drunk put everyone at risk, and that makes this practice intolerable in every circumstance.
Keeping Kids Safe Even With The Lure Of Labor Day
Keeping adolescents safe and sound over the long Labor Day weekend is a challenge for many parents, since teenage sons and daughters may have ample opportunities to network with peers for some rollicking (as they define it) good times. When drinking is going on, irresponsibility inevitably runs rampant, so there is no way to sugarcoat the significance of the risk if teens are hanging out with the wrong crowd doing the wrong things. The Labor Day celebration takes place on the last weekend before school opens in many locations, so kids may see it as one last chance to kick back and let loose before returning to the same old dull routine.
All moms and dads would like to protect their children from every possible danger, even though they know that goal isn’t realistic. But parents must never surrender to defeatism, and anything they can try that might make a difference is worth the effort. So in the spirit of the lost cause that isn’t really lost, here are three suggestions for those who would like to keep their adolescent children safe by keeping them away from alcohol and drugs over the Labor Day weekend:
Model Good Behavior, Starting Right Now
The idea that adolescents have an inherent need to rebel is false. If they grow up in households where alcohol is used responsibly, it will influence their behavior moving forward.
For parents who have been a little lax in the past, Labor Day Weekend 2014 would be an excellent time to begin setting a good example in this regard. Admittedly, such a modification might make more of an impact in the future, and with younger children, than with adolescents whose expectations and patterns of behavior are already somewhat set. But if playing the part of the good role model is combined with our next two plans for action, it might very well make an immediate difference. From small seeds, fertile fruit trees of exemplary conduct can eventually grow, and Labor Day Weekend is the perfect time to put that first seed into the ground.
Engage Teens In Dialogue, And Have A Good Command Of The Facts
Many parents wonder how to talk to their kids about drugs and alcohol without sounding preachy, or like they are giving a lecture. Moms and dads know this can backfire and make foolish behavior seem even more attractive.
When discussing these issues, it is vitally important to speak to adolescents like adults rather than children. They must be active participants in the dialogue, feeling free to speak honestly about their experiences, offer contrary points of view, and ask whatever questions come to mind. Parents must be prepared to enter conversations about drugs and alcohol with logical arguments in mind and without fear or panic, and they need to educate themselves on the subject first so it they won’t sound like they are just saying whatever comes into their heads.
The shocking statistics about teen alcohol and drug use, and all of its tragic consequences, are easy to find. Parents should have all the numbers memorized before they sit down to engage their kids in a heart-to-heart gabfest. Pre-Labor Day weekend is the ideal time to have such a conversation, but regardless of when it takes place, it should be conducted in a respectful, adult manner. If it is, adolescents will notice it and be far more open and receptive.
Make Plans For The Whole Family, With The Whole Family
Obviously, family vacations keep everyone together and make it harder for teens to get away from adult supervision. But this strategy works best when the kids are given a say in deciding what the family will do or where it will go. Rather than dictating holiday plans to adolescents, parents should bring them in on the planning of the trip. If their opinions are taken into account, teens are far more likely to get excited about sharing the holiday weekend with loved ones.
It is important to realize that teens often drift into drinking and drugs because they don’t see more interesting or enticing alternatives, which can sap their motivation to resist peer pressure even if they start out intending to. But very few kids will sneak off to be with friends on the holidays if they know there is more fun to be had by staying with the family.
Labor Day And The Toughest Job In The World
There is profound wisdom in many old aphorisms, but there is one we would all be wise to discard: in life, good things never come to those who sit back and wait. If we want positive outcomes, we must be proactive and aggressive in tackling potential problems before they arise. The social forces that push kids toward drinking and/or drug use are real and they are everywhere, and parents who stay uninvolved on these issues are asking for trouble and disappointment.
Holidays can be an especially dangerous time for young people trying to grow up too fast. Moms and dads who are in denial about the temptations their kids face certainly aren’t doing them any favors. Being a great parent is the hardest job there is, but if we care about our children and their futures, making the effort to get it right should be considered mandatory.
And what better time to tackle one of the biggest parental challenges than on Labor Day, when we gather together to honor the memories of those who struggled and sacrificed to make life better for their families?
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