Make Prom A Happy Memory, Not A Sorrow-Filled One

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by Monika Weldon, director, Payson Southwest Behavioral Health Services

The Payson High School prom is Saturday, April 26. Prom is a special event for most teens, maybe even a rite of passage.

Parents often want their teen to experience the excitement and fun of this special event, but may also have concerns about their teen’s safety.

Unfortunately, drinking alcohol has become, for many, part of the celebration and this poses a multitude of safety and health risks.

Each year across America teens are killed or injured by the hundreds in alcohol-related accidents related directly to prom night drinking and partying (Frieda Thomas, 4/15/10). A survey of 11th- and 12th-grade students finds that 90 percent believe that their peers are more likely to drink and drive on prom night, but few think that the behavior carries a high degree of risk (USA Today, 4/9/10). So, although there is an awareness that drinking and driving is more likely to occur on prom night and we know that hundreds of teens are killed or injured in these accidents, teens continue to believe they are safe from harm, even if they engage in risky behavior.

Drinking and driving is not the only risk for teens. Even if alternative transportation is arranged, alcohol still presents many dangers. Alcohol consumption can lead to alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal. There is no “safe” amount of alcohol for teens. The teen brain is still developing and alcohol effects a teen differently than an adult. Drinking alcohol can cause learning problems or lead to adult alcoholism. People who begin drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to abuse or become dependent on alcohol than those who begin drinking after age 21.

Tips for parents

• Talk to your teen about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs, throughout the year. Remind your teen about your expectations before prom.

• Listen to your teens’ feelings and thoughts about alcohol and other drug use, their hopes and fears, and what they think they would do (or have done in the past) if offered alcohol or other drugs.

• Teens are often concerned about popularity, losing friends, or being teased if they refuse an offer of alcohol or other drugs. Respect your teens’ concerns and help him/her find a way to address them.

• Practice effectively saying no when offered alcohol or other drugs. Practicing several different strategies in a safe environment increases the likelihood that a teen will say no if offered alcohol or other drugs (Power Moves).

• Remember that parents are the No. 1 influence on teens’ drinking behavior (Laura Dean-Mooney, national president of MADD, USA).

• Teens hear what we say, and they watch what we do. Role model by celebrating important events without alcohol.

• Maintain the usual curfew. Prom is a special occasion, however, it is not an excuse to break the rules of the family or the community. Most drinking on prom night occurs at an “after party.”

• Do not rent a hotel room or otherwise host or allow an after party.

• Ensure that your teen has safe transportation to and from prom.

If you have concerns about your teen and alcohol or drug use, help is available. Dial 2-1-1 within Arizona or 877-211-8661 from anywhere in the United States to find help as soon as possible.

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