Prom safety begins with mom and dad
CASTLE ROCK – While prom and graduation are meant to be times of celebration, unfortunately they can also be times of tragedy. Parents can make a difference by having a conversation with their kids about the consequences related to their decisions.
“Our research shows us that parents are the leading influence on whether kids drink alcohol or not,” Carrie Veatch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving explained.
As the organization’s youth program specialists, she speaks to a lot of kids about the dangers of one of the most deadly mistakes students make during celebrations—drinking and driving. She often speaks to classes about the impact of a decision, like getting behind the wheel after drinking, can have. She, however, says MADD believes parents are often more effective in getting that message across—even if they’re unsure how to get started.
“I think a lot of parents are scared to have that initial conversation,” Veatch said. “Maybe they think their teenager is not listening, because as we know teenagers act like they're not listening, but they really are. We encourage open conversations that have open-ended questions, non-judgmental questions. So they know their parent is willing to listen and is not judging them based on their behavior or their friends’ behavior. You want to keep them safe and that really is why you’re having the conversation.”
“You really are an important role in your teenagers life, whether or not they show that to you,” she added. “I often encourage parents by reminding them that teenagers developmentally can't always handle those conversations face-to-face; they might be on the phone, they might be looking at the ground but they are paying attention and what you say matters, so take the time and really be a parent, because kids need parents.”
Whether the conversation is about alcohol, drugs or sex, creating an understanding of consequences, as well as an open line of communication is important.
“You should never, ever be afraid to communicate with your child and visa-versa,” said Deputy Vance Fleet of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, who works as the School Resource Officer at Mountain Vista High School.
“When I was leaving the house as a teenager, my dad used to do this,” Fleet said, tapping his head. “I already knew what that meant. He didn't need to open his mouth. He said, ‘think.’ Think about what you're doing before you do it. Think about what the consequences are and weigh those. Make sure you're making a good decision.”
Fleet says often teenagers are often too wrapped up in the moment to think about how a decision can impact college and beyond.
“Some times the consequences that may come from underage drinking or drugs can actually affect their lives in college. It may keep them from getting into the college they want. It may impact a scholarship that they've gotten from a school or if they're getting into a government position later on where they're going to do an extensive background,” Fleet said.
“Just slow down and thing about what you are doing,” he added. “Think about the impact it could have on you. Think about your future-- your immediate future and your distant future as well and how those choices you make can drastically impact your life.”
If you haven’t had a talk with your teenager yet, the experts say it is never too late and there are a lot of resources to help. Throughout the month of April, we will be posting links to resources here.