By Melissa Ford
An IMPACT Parent's Perspective
Below is a post written by an IMPACT (Parents and Community Together to Reduce Youth Alcohol Drug Use) parent and submitted to EmpoweredParent.
When my oldest daughter went to prom her Senior year, she was invited to spend the weekend in Wisconsin for post-prom. I knew and really liked her group of friends and their parents. Nonetheless, I was concerned that the weekend had the potential to include alcohol and marijuana use along with other risky teen behaviors. I called the father of the hosting child. Yes, indeed, he and his wife were going to be there. No, they were not going to provide alcohol or other substances to the kids.
But, he added, wasn't I being a bit of a hand-wringing parent, out-of-touch with the realities of what kids do today?
Didn't I realize my daughter was going off to college in a few months, independent from me and my restrictions on her alcohol use? Kids will be kids and there's nothing you can do to stop it. The conversation made me take pause. Was I out-of-touch? Or was he?
Since then, I have learned that while we can't necessarily stop all kids from using, we can certainly influence their decisions -- and make it more difficult for them to engage in risky behaviors.
According to numerous studies, a parent's attitude about their teen's drinking (and ability or failure to communicate it) is one of the most powerful influences over whether that teen will drink or use marijuana. And in environments where use is heavily encouraged and a substance is readily available (like Oak Park and River Forest), parents communicating their expectation is not enough. Parents who also monitor their youths' activities and "veto" potentially dangerous ones decrease the likelihood of their youth using substances, particularly alcohol.* And the benefit moves on with them to college.
The data is clear, but many parents remain unaware. Only 51% of OPRF Seniors in 2012 reported that their parents or guardians talked to them about NOT using alcohol; only 46% talked to them about NOT using marijuana. And 26% reported they got alcohol for their own use from their parents WITH their permission (27% got it from parents WITHOUT their permission).**
Help your teen get ready for a memorable, fun and drama-free prom. Don't be afraid to monitor your teen's prom activities and say no to ideas that might put them at risk.
Make sure you know about the new Social Hosting Laws in Oak Park and River Forest and parents' legal responsibilities toward not serving anyone under 21 in their home, hotel or other gathering place. And most importantly, talk with your son or daughter about your expectations. For tips on how to approach that conversation, click on this article from US News and World Report.
* 2010 Illinois Youth Survey Follow-up Report, page 30 , Chestnut Health Systems.
**Illinois Youth Surey 2012. Univerity of Illinois, Center for Research and Development, Spring 2012.