By ASHLEIGH HALL
My high school prom took a dramatic turn when two guys got their tuxedo jackets mixed up.
One of them belonged to my date, who kindly offered to keep my wallet in his pocket. That’s the jacket another young man mistakenly grabbed off the back of a chair before heading to an underage drinking party that got shut down by police well after midnight — as kids scattered in every direction.
When an officer found my wallet in the abandoned jacket and called my parents down to the station, they woke me up to come along and sort out the misunderstanding.
Parents, as your students get ready for the 2018 prom season, I hope no such mix-ups come their way. At the same time, my longtime work as a certified prevention specialist compels me to remind you: underage drinking is still a serious concern today.
Recent polls show alcohol use is the number-one social issue students face, especially on prom night. Statistics from the AAA Teen Survey and Mothers Against Drunk Driving indicate the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in the lives of teenagers.
A majority of teenagers — 75 percent — say they’ve been peer pressured into drinking. Further, 31 percent admit to having used drugs or alcohol on prom night. In turn, 19 percent say they have ridden in a car with an impaired driver. Of all teens involved in fatal automobile crashes, 20 percent were reportedly under the influence.
How can we help these bright young stars of tomorrow resist that urge to imbibe today? Here are several steps to avoid underage drinking and other prom drama.
Set ground rules. A prom-going student may be just around the corner from adulthood, but you still call the shots. Agree to check-in times to confirm whereabouts and company, and enforce a curfew. Through plain communication, discourage drug and underage alcohol use — it’s illegal and can increase a variety of risky behaviors, including sexual activities for which a teen may not be prepared.
Find the exit. Even when all the ground rules have been followed, teens can wind up in unexpected situations where drinking and drugs are present. Equip your student with cash for cab fare if a quick getaway is needed. Also, let your teen know that you (or another trusted adult) will be available any time during the night to provide a safe ride home.
Share resources. Reach out to your kids in ways that resonate with their generation. Teenagers may roll their eyes when an adult tries to talk about drinking and other tough coming-of-age topics, but they might click on a link in a brief, well-timed text with less resistance. Centerstone shares free information to help students, parents and educators tackle issues facing adolescents at centerstone.org/teen.
Here’s to safe celebrations and wonderful memories! May all of your 2018 prom events be carefree as well as alcohol and drug free—and be sure to keep up with your jacket.
Ashleigh Hall is a Prevention Services Coordinator for Centerstone (centerstone.org) and a Certified Prevention Specialist II with 18 years of experience working with children and their families. Centerstone is a not-for-profit health care organization dedicated to delivering care that changes people’s lives.