Dear Editor:

Well, it is that time of year again...spring is in the air and we are all counting down the days till summer break. For many parents, this is also the time of year when our children are planning proms and graduation parties. We at Prevention First want to remind you to make this a safe and sober time for your children and communities.

Young people are bombarded with messages about alcohol every day. Unfortunately, many of these messages do not include the real facts. The reality is that underage drinking can lead to car crashes, drownings, personal injury accidents, unplanned pregnancies and school failure.

The messages parents send to children about alcohol are crucial. Many parents allow their teenage children to drink alcohol at home in an effort to teach them how to drink responsibly. They may have good intentions, but the results can be deadly. What they do, in fact, is facilitate their child’s comfort with alcohol and many admit that it sends them a dangerous mixed message. Talking to your children and setting clear boundaries are the most important things parents can do. Surveys show that parents have a tremendous impact and influence on their children’s decisions about drinking.   It is imperative that parents are aware of the risks posed to their children, most especially at this festive time of year. Proms, graduation and the parties that follow make this a perfect time to talk to your child about alcohol and to set up some prevention strategies.

Make a Safety Plan- Talk to your teen about not drinking and driving and not being a passenger in unsafe circumstances. Who will they call if they need a ride? Role play some scenarios until you are sure they will not be pressured to take any unnecessary risks.

Hiring a Limo-Don’t leave the hiring to your teen. Make the arrangements yourself, and make it clear that the driver is to make no stops other than those you’ve pre-authorized. Ask what measures the driver takes to prevent the limousine from becoming a place for children to drink.

Renting Hotel Rooms-In general, hotels don’t rent to minors and need a parent’s involvement. A parent whose credit card is used is liable for damages, which can be considerable if a party gets out of hand. Don’t let your child attend a hotel party unless you know and trust the chaperones.

Throwing a Post Prom Party at Home- Make it clear that you won’t allow gate-crashers. Get advance agreement with your teen on the party rules. Greet guests at the door. Your teen will

want you to keep a low profile, but it is responsible to circulate. Check your yard periodically. Do not serve alcohol.

If the party is at Someone Else’s House-Call the host parent in advance to find out the ground rules. Find out when the party will end and who will be chaperoning. If your child has more than one party invitation on prom night, it’s safest to have him/her pick one for the evening and not party-hop.

Prevention First invites you to stop by and visit our resource center for free information on this and many other related topics at 1405 Highway 35 North, Ocean Township or visit us on the web at www.preventionfirst.net.

Sincerely,

Mary Pat Angelini

Executive Director & CEO, Prevention First

Ocean, NJ