The senior class from Sequim High School had a great graduation. The kids seemed to enjoy it and the parents, grandparents and others who are important to a graduating senior felt good about the event.
The best thing about graduation is the planned party that comes after the event. From 9 p.m. until 4 a.m. graduating seniors came to a party just for them. They left with goodies galore, money and having had a good time. The best part about this event is that they came sober and left sober. That is the way recent graduations have been — what a relief for parents.
Issues involving alcohol use by teens has been a source of worry and concern for parents for forever. Parents who want to make a difference spend time with their children going over the ramification of drinking and the rules they want followed.
If you are one of those parents it is important that you do the following:
Be very specific — Explain why you feel the need for the rules, what the rules are and what is expected. Be sure to discuss the consequences for breaking the rules.
Be consistent — Be very clear with your child that the no-alcohol use rule is the same wherever he is. He needs to follow the rule in your home, at his friend’s home, and anywhere else.
You may know a lot about the impact of alcohol on our teens but look at the dangers of alcohol for teens. The United States Department of Education reports that4.6 million teenagers have a drinking problem. Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death among young people 15 to 24 years of age.
They have even found that about half of all youthful deaths in drowning, fires, suicide, and homicide are alcohol-related.
This same source says that young people who use alcohol at an early age are more likely to use alcohol heavily and to have alcohol-related problems. Early users are also more likely to abuse other drugs and to get into trouble with the law.
It is easy to try to talk with a teen about using alcohol and to mislead them. When you read studies about alcohol they give you guidelines about using alcohol. The problem is that young people whose body weight is lower than adults body weight reach a higher blood alcohol concentration level than adults and show greater effects for longer periods of time.
As the parents, we are responsible for talking with our teens and setting the rules for them to follow. With something as dangerous as alcohol and other drug use, strong conversation and strong rules need to be set up to protect your child. Then those rules need to be enforced.
You can do this. It isn’t easy but I believe you can. Think ahead of any problem about how you would handle it if your child had that problem. Know what you can do before it happens. Be strong. Be fair but strong.
Some discipline issues aren’t a big deal. You probably forget to follow through on a number of things you have told your children. However, alcohol is a big deal. You need to put your effort into solving this problem.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, call 360-681-2250.