As we welcome April with open arms, enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather, many young people across America are also welcoming end-of-the-school-year celebrations that are right around the corner! Popular events like prom are exciting times for young people when many fond memories are made. Sadly, as years pass, we find that prom has a dark side: alcohol related accidents and deaths. According to the NCADD, “alcohol is the number one beerdrug of choice for America’s youth and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.” The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that in 2001, 1,012 children under 21 died of alcohol-related traffic incidents in the months of April, May and June alone. Although young people turn to alcohol for any number of reasons, now is a crucial time to raise awareness on underage drinking to ensure that your child is safe during the upcoming prom season.

The combination of prom and alcohol is often seen as a rite of passage for teens. For many of them it is their first opportunity to experiment with alcohol and parents feel as though their children are safe drinking, as long as they are not driving. However, underage alcohol consumption can still be lethal even if they are not driving. Many adolescents are unaware of the consequences of drinking. Drinking a large amount of alcohol can cause loss of consciousness and all control over what happens to his or her body. Drinking too much too fast can cause alcohol poisoning, which could in turn lead to death. Alcohol consumption at a young age could also set the stage for a lifetime of dependency. Even if the person never becomes dependent on alcohol during their lifetime, all it takes is one too many drinks to make a life altering decision.

Talk to your teens about the consequences of underage drinking. Although these topics are sometimes tackled in classrooms, a direct talk with your child can really put into perspective the dangers that occur when drinking. Consider these talking points during a conversation about underage drinking:

  •  Prom Night Plans – Find out your teens plans for prom night. It is common for schools to host prom parties before and after the prom. Encourage teens to attend these parties as they provide safe and alcohol-free environments for young people.
  • Drinking is Illegal – If your teen does not plan to attend a school-related event, focus on the choices they can make. Remind your teen that underage drinking is illegal, and as a precaution, discuss the serious dangers of drinking and driving.
  • Alternatives to Driving – Offer an alternative way to get home if your teen, or their friends, end up drinking. Allow your teen to contact you at any point during the night, or perhaps provide extra money for a cab ride home.
  • Friends Who Drink – Discuss the dangers of being around people who are drinking. Even if your teen chooses against drinking, their friends may not. Mention the danger of drug use, including date rape drugs and “roofies”, and let them know that it is not OK to experiment.

These are only a few places to start the conversation with your teenager. Take advantage of April’s Alcohol Awareness Month and keep an eye out for NCADD events taking place near you. Prom season should be a wonderful and exciting time for both teens and their parents. Do what you can to ensure that your teen is making the right decisions concerning alcohol.

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