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Posts Tagged ‘Parents of Teenagers’

One quarter of our teens are alcohol abusers by the time they leave high school. They are teens whose drinking habits produce poor work, excessive absenteeism from work or school, and complaints from friends and family. Alcohol-related accidents remain one of the biggest killers of sons and daughters until they pass college age.

Often a parent first discovers a teenage drinking problem on the morning after:

“Boy, do I feel terrible this morning!”

“Are you sick? What did you have when you were out last night?”

“Ah, just the same old stuff.”

“Todd, you must have had something different from the same old stuff.”

It will probably turn out that Todd was tempted by a few beers for short-term fun and now he has the day-after long-term misery.

Looking beyond the short- to the long-term consequences is one measure of growing up. Even parents can have trouble looking ahead to drinking problems:

“Let him have a little beer, what harm can it do?”

“As long as it’s in the house and nobody is going to drive, it’s OK.”

Drinking habits often produce strange excuses: “I couldn’t help it, I was drunk” is a common teenage misunderstanding of responsibility.

Traffic laws don’t excuse the drunk driver of responsibility and often teens don’tseem to understand that drunkenness is not an excuse for stupidity; it is stupidity. Nevertheless the most common excuse a teenage girl gives for getting pregnant remains, “I was drunk.”

But drinking and driving remains the most dangerous part. All parents dread that terrible phone call in the middle of the night: “This is Officer Jones of the West Virginia State Police, your son has been…”

While teens make up only 6.9 percent of the driving population, they account for 13 percent of the alcohol-related fatal crashes. In 2003, expect 17,000 deaths nationwide due to drunk driving. About 350 will be from West Virginia and 40 of those will be teenagers.

West Virginia’s legal limit of blood alcohol that defines DUI is now set at .10 percent. While our state ranks fifth with 8.24 alcohol-related traffic deaths per 100,000 population each year, our legislature refuses to lower the limit to .08 percent as most states require. Even that’s equivalent to four shots of hard liquor within one hour on an empty stomach, but our legislators evidently feel that is all right for drivers coming down the road at you.

What can parents do?

First, stay informed, on every occasion, about how your son or daughter is going to get home from a party or other activity.

Second, disallow all social events with alcohol.

Third, support and respect the laws concerning drinking and driving and the officers who enforce them – the next car they stop, just in time, may have one of yours inside.

Strict laws do work as I found out during a celebration with my wife’s large family in Norway. Her cousin accidentally picked up her husband’s wine glass by mistake and touched it to her lips. Her face showed near terror as she realized what she had almost done! She was the designated driver for her part of the family that evening and, in Norway, the road blocks and breath tests for any alcohol consumption are almost inescapable.

In the Norwegian courts, any evidence of alcohol and the automatic fine is two months salary! That can’t be brushed off even by the wealthy. Results of behavioral tests and blood levels determine the jail sentence (up to one year) to be added to the fine. The law is strict and drinking and driving is very rare compared to the U.S.

Our legislators have a responsibility to provide an effective law beyond unenforceable suspensions and trivial fines manipulated by DUI lawyers.

Some will say their freedom to judge their own drinking and driving is more important than a few deaths, but they are wrong and we should say so.

It only shows a prejudice against the young to crow about getting tough with teens because of their 14% of the drunk driving fatalities and then wring our hands and coddling the adults responsible for the other 86%.

Copy, fax, mail, or e-mail your support of more strict drinking and driving laws to your legislators today. Send your elected judges the message that enforcing the drinking laws will get your vote.

 

Dr. McIntire is the author of Teenagers and Parents: 10 Steps to a Better Relationship and Raising Good Kids in Tough Times: 7 Crucial Habits for Parent Success. Contact him through Parentsuccess.com.

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We all hope this problem turns out to be simple and not too serious—maybe a tough homework assignment or a fellow student with bad social skills. We hope it is not the forever life-changing announcement. But you might have a moment of fear since May is Teen Pregnancy Month.

A conversation too short, too fast or with too many family members chiming in is not likely to help. Pick a good time when you can go slow with time to listen in a one-on–one situation.

Make sure your teen gets the facts straight. One teenaged girl told me, “I want to be safe. If I have sex, I always take one of Mom’s pills the next day.” Your daughter has a 1 in 20 chance of becoming pregnant, and both sons and daughters are at three times that risk for sexually transmitted diseases. This is not just a “girl problem.”

Fathers who cause teen pregnancies are usually long out of high school, so caution your teenager daughter about these not-quite-adults and supervise your 18-and-something son on this temptation.

Alcohol is the most common excuse young women give for making the big mistake.

What attitudes should a parent model on this subject?

Take your time on this subject, it may be the most important part of your influence on your son’s or daughter’s future. The New York Times reported last week that the introduction of the pill in the 50’s did not reduce dangerous sexual habits as was first predicted. National rates of teen pregnancies, births, and abortions did not peak in the 50’s but continued upward until the 90’s. Even now West Virginia averages 60 teenage girls per week who have babies.

The pregnancy rate is actually higher than that because many pregnancies end before they are reported and aborted pregnancies (about one third) are not included.

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