It's a proud moment for any parent. You hear your teen's name and with the passing of the diploma, high school is over. All of the classes and hard work have prepared them for life beyond high school and the important decisions that will shape the rest of their lives. Yet, graduation does not end the high school experience. Many graduates gather for senior parties to celebrate their friendships and achievements, and while you shouldn't forbid your son or daughter from attending, it is your responsibility as a parent to make your graduate abundantly aware of the risks.
Parents play a critical role in keeping teens safe by having clear, unrestrained conversations about alcohol use at graduation parties. Every year, I hear stories of graduation party accidents and parental arrests for providing alcohol, and many could have been avoided by having direct conversations and setting clear expectations beforehand. Help equip your teen with the tools to make safe decisions, and when having these discussions, keep these five tips in mind.
- Embrace repetition. Already had this conversation around the holidays? Good. Make sure you have it again. No matter how many times you and your teen have spoken about this, you'll need to repeat it. Teens are developing rapidly at this point in their lives, and they may now have a different perspective or understanding of the situation. They may be more responsive and receptive this time around or they may be more willing to take risks than before. Every child is different, and you cannot become complacent.
Yes, these conversations will be awkward and probably a bit uncomfortable, but they are 100% necessary. To make these discussions go smoother, try to talk with your children -- not at them. Ask them what they know and think before you even start. Be respectful of their perspective and maybe even challenge them to do the research if there are questions or areas of disagreement.
Graduating high school seniors are on the verge of adulthood. They are usually 18, able to vote and eligible to serve in the military. Recent grads have college, travel or work planned for the future, and this brings a sense of freedom and agency for the first time. But make it clear that with this independence comes responsibility. Your child will have a lifetime of big decisions to make; some of the first will involve how they behave during this festive time. As a parent, it is your responsibility to prepare them to act in a smart, safe way.
For more information on how to discuss alcohol with your teens, please visit www.healthallianceonalcohol.com.