Keeping Teens Safe During Prom Night

bc-web-liquor0107It’s Prom season again and teenagers across the country are getting ready for the big night, spending lots of money on dresses, hair, make up and alcohol.

Yes, alcohol.

The other day I happened to glimpse at one of my 17 year old client’s cell phone screen and saw that she was in the middle of texting someone about Prom. The last message read, “Are you sure your cousin is going to be able to get us the alcohol?”

I wasn’t shocked, but disappointed. After all, this client is one of my “good” kids who generally doesn’t give me any trouble at all, but I was disappointed that she was planning on drinking on Prom night, just as thousands of other students will be doing.

Teens and alcohol simply don’t mix, they never have, and Prom and alcohol definitely don’t mix.

Teens want to party and celebrate, to be “grown” for a night which includes partying and celebrating the way they see or think grown people do, with alcohol which is why Prom and Graduation season are so deadly for teens when it comes to alcohol related accidents and deaths.

For example, in 2005 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 676 high school students were killed in alcohol related traffic accidents.  One third of all alcohol related traffic accidents involving students happen between the months of April, May and June.

Drinking alcohol can cause adults to make poor decisions, imagine the poor decisions involved with underage drinking.

Young drivers are less likely to wear their seat belts when they have been drinking.  In 2005, 64% of young drivers involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were not wearing a seat belt (NHTSA).

Teens who have been drinking or aren’t thinking about possible consequences, are also more likely to get into a car with someone who has been drinking, which of course puts their lives at risk even if they avoided alcohol themselves.

According to a 2005 report by the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, in the last 30 days, nearly 30 percent of high school students reported getting in a car driven by someone they knew had been drinking alcohol.

Other than drinking and driving, there are the other issues that come along with being intoxicated, such as leaving oneself vulnerable to sexual assaults, theft, violence and a host of other reckless, stupid behaviors and decisions.

One statistic I saw estimated that 90 percent of all crimes on college campuses including rape and murder involved alcohol.

Ask your teen how much would it suck on Prom night to end up:

  • on their knees somewhere throwing up or passed out
  • embarrassing themselves, their friends or their date
  • on a Youtube video doing something they wish they could take back
  • not remembering much of this supposedly unforgettable night
  • suspended from school or worse, arrested

Some people will say that teens will be teens, they will party and drink, but so what? Well if the statistics about alcohol related traffic accidents above doesn’t cause you to pause, think about these numbers from about.com:

  • 3 million children ages 14 through 17 are regular drinkers who already have a confirmed alcohol problem
  • Ninth graders who drink are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who don’t
  • 40 percent of children who begin drinking before the age of 15 will become alcoholics at some point in their lives

We can’t ignore the problem of teenage drinking. I am almost positive that the client I spoke about above, parents have not talked to her at all about drinking on Prom night, because she is an excellent student who never has behavioral problems. They would be shocked to know about her intentions, which is why I let her know I saw her text and spoke at length with her about underage drinking.

Parents, talk to your teens about staying safe and away from alcohol and drugs during Prom. Not only should you talk to your teen, you should also speak with their dates and even friends to try to make sure everyone is on the same page. You can even have your teen, their date and friends sign a sobriety or Prom promise, that says something as simple as:

I,__(name)_________ hereby commit to having a safe Prom by not using alcohol, tobacco, or any other drugs. I will also encourage those with me to remain alcohol and drug free and I will not get into a vehicle driven by someone who is not sober.

Have your teen sign and date it. Sounds simple, but this little method has proven to be powerful on high school campuses across the country each Prom and graduation season.

Lastly, parents:

  • Let your teen know that they can call you or someone else you both trust and agree upon, to come and get them anytime from anywhere
  • Know your teen’s plans for before, during and after Prom
  • Know who they are with
  • Come to a fair and agreed upon curfew
  • Let them know your expectations for an alcohol and drug free night
  • Check in with them during and after the Prom, or have to check in. A simple text, “I’m okay” may suffice

Prom is an exciting, memorable time that unfortunately ends in tragedy for far too many young people. Let’s try to keep them safe while allowing them to prove that they are ready for the responsibilities that come along with being young adults.

How Much Responsibilty Should You Have For Your Friends?

I am a big proponent of everyone being responsible for themselves, and this is largely because of my own personal flaws. I am a codependent. I often feel responsible for other people’s happiness and well being. This often times puts me in situations where I get used or even worst, don’t treat myself right because I’d prefer to see others happy before myself. Still, I think there are times when you should have a responsibility to and for your friends, and of course times when you should not.

The other night, a friend of mine went out drinking with a female friend of his. They both got intoxicated, she more so than he. After the drinking was done, he tried to help her sober up by walking around with her and forcing her to drink water. It was getting late and he was ready to go home so he took her to an establishment and according to him, told them that they were responsible for her and to not allow her to drive. Well, an hour later he got a call from a police officer saying that he had stopped her, was giving her a DUI and wanted to know if he was available to pick up her car from the side of the road.

My friend was devastated. At one end he felt responsible and on the other, felt like he had done all he could do and that she was a grown woman responsible for her own decisions. I agreed with him to a certain extent, except she was intoxicated and intoxicated people usually make very poor decisions. On top of that, as a friend, I felt like he should have placed her in a taxi and make sure she got home safely. When my friends and I go out drinking, we ALWAYS have a designated driver. I thought it was a poor decision on both of their parts to both drink in the first place. And as a man, I thought he should have been extra protective of his female friend.

I watched as he went back and forth from feeling bad, to feeling like he did nothing wrong and I notice I was starting to feel a certain way about him, almost as if I couldn’t trust or count on him in a life or death situation. I wondered if we had been together that night and he was more sober than I was, would he have left me to fend for myself the way he did his female friend. Then I had to start questioning what type of friend was he really? Sure he’s a fun person to hang around, but I was starting to think that he certainly wasn’t someone to count on in a life or death situation. Me, being who I am, would have never left my friend to fend for herself while she was inebriated, but maybe that’s just the codependency in me, or maybe that’s because I think friends should always look out for the best interest of each other.

So I think there is a line between taking responsibility for say, your friends happiness and being so codependent that you are not allowing them to learn to take care of themselves, but in the situation when it comes to your friends safety, especially when they are not in the right frame of mine to look out for themselves, I do think a good friend has the responsibility to make sure that their friend doesn’t do something irreparably foolish that they will certainly regret later.