GENERAL PARENTING TIPS: HOW TO HELP PREVENT TEEN ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG USE OVER THE SUMMER MONTHS AND BEYOND
Parents are their Teens Most Important Influence.
As we've stated before, the BTI program is premised on the simple fact that parents have a lot more influence with their teens than they think they do. Parents are still their teens' number one influence.
It is further based on research that shows that increased “supervision”, an “engaged” parenting style and “modeling” healthy behavior by parents with respect to their own alcohol and drug use can all positively impact teen behavior and help delay early experimentation and use.
While you may not want to be a hovering parent, now is the time to "lean in" as a parent, especially during the freshman and sophomore years. Below are tips to pick and choose from, depending on your teen's age, temperament, maturity level and proven trustworthiness.
They are pointers from our newsletter last August that bear repeating.
• Be Wary of Parties with Older Teens and Sleepovers. Parents of younger teens (especially rising freshman and sophomores) should say "not yet" or otherwise discourage their teens from attending large parties or those with teens from more senior grades. The world of a 14-15 year old is very different from that of a 17-18 year old. Additionally, parents are often absent from these parties, the parties are loosely supervised or worse, drinking and other drug use is tolerated. Similarly, parents should be wary about last minute sleepover requests and should use the BTI Parent List to reach out to the hosting parents.
• Know Where Your Teen is Going and With Whom, Especially if Driving. Consider using "Find My Friends", Life 360 (which shows a history of where your teen has been, not just where your teen is at the moment) or other app on your phones to verify your teen's whereabouts. This also applies to where your teen is during the day. Also know who your teen is driving with. Get to know your teens' friends and their parents by reaching out to them and using the BTI Parent List.
• Do not enable your new teen driver with a "provisional" restricted drivers license to drive other teens or allow your teen to be driven by a new teen driver. Under the law, new drivers should not be driving friends until they have had their license for one year. New drivers with friends in the car greatly increases the risk of an accident and can result in substantial liability. Say no to your teen getting a ride with a new driver, even if it makes life more convenient for you as a parent. Get to know your teens' friends and their parents by reaching out to them and using the BTI Parent List.
• Trust your Teen ... to be a Teen! Teen brains are wired for risk taking. A common refrain of teens to parents is "You don't trust me!" The response? "We trust you to be a teenager" or "we don't necessarily trust all your friends"!
• Set a Reasonable Curfew and Check-Ins. There is no reason for teens to be allowed out at all hours of the night. Local curfew laws are at 11 pm and the CHP strictly enforces this curfew and issues citations when teens have their "provisional" drivers license. For rising freshman and sophomore parents, think about what time is okay for a senior to come home at night. Then count backwards for curfews. Realize that every year, you will want to move your teen's curfew a little later to reward good behavior and acknowledge growing maturity and freedom. If you start 9th grade with a midnight curfew, you will soon find yourself in trouble. Regarding check-ins, having some face-to-face contact is best and a phone conversation is even better than texting. Trust ... but verify such as through a landline, Find My Friends, Life 360 or similar app.
• Be Aware of Local Social Host Ordinance Laws and Use Law Enforcement as Support. Social Host Ordinances throughout Marin hold parents strictly and financially accountable for underage drinking in their homes. Some local police departments publish press releases about social host violations with your street named and if your teen is 18 yeas old or over, your family may be identified by name. If you are leaving your house unattended for the evening or leaving town overnight, take precautions to ensure your house won’t become "The Party Spot". Never hesitate to contact police for help if a party gets out of control. Local police also can be contacted for drive-by "vacation checks".
• "Teen Proof" Your Home. Reduce easy access to alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs by "teen proofing" your home and locking up or otherwise securing or keeping track of any alcohol and other drugs. Don't make it easy for your teen to experiment with or use alcohol or other drugs - even if you think it is an inevitable "rite of passage".
• Hidden Stashes and Fake Id's. Periodically check for hidden alcohol, marijuana and other drugs or paraphernalia as well as “fake id’s”, all of which can be found in bedrooms, cars and wallets. Fake Id's are easy to obtain online and usually come in pairs. If you find one and destroy it, chances are a second one is around.
• Know the Difference Between Experimentation and Use/Abuse. Experimentation is trying alcohol or another drug once or maybe twice. More than that is "using", which can escalate into "abusing". The "worst" drug out there is the one that your teen experiments with and likes.
• Have Regular Discussions about these Topics with Your Teen. If you have not been talking about the hard stuff (drugs, birth control, sex, consent), this is the time to start. If you have been talking about these issues, double down. Talk early and often. Every family has its own mores and values and your teen should know them. Over time they may discard some of what you say, ignore your rules and defy you but they should never be unclear about both your values and rules. Agree to the rules ahead of time - no alcohol or other drugs, or smoking. Be present, ask open ended questions and listen to what they say. Be mindful of the language you use and make positive remarks about your teen's behavior outnumber any negative comments ("catch them being good".)
• Establish Consequences if your Teen Violates Your Agreements. Be a parent and not a pal. Local law enforcement officers often comment that when called, parents seem more concerned with the legal ramifications than on disciplining their teens. Set consequences which have a connection to the behavior or rule violation.
• Give a Goodbye Reminder, Hello Hug or Good Night Kiss. Be around when they leave for a night out, perhaps with a reminder of your rules and consequences. This will also ensure there is no "pre-gaming" at your home. After a teen's night out, parents should stay up to greet their child, look them in the eye and give them a hello hug or good night kiss (and a discreet sniff) when they come home. Have a conversation with them and try not to be asleep or out on the town yourself when they arrive.
• Establish a Safe Ride/"No Questions Asked" Policy and an "Exit" Plan. Tell your teen that they can always call you for a safe ride home and there will be "no questions asked" -- and then perhaps ask the next morning. Review excuses that your teen can use to exit a risky situation, e.g., "my parents will kill me" or "I have to get up early in the morning". Consider writing a letter such as the one posted at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathy-radigan/an-open-letter-to-my-teenage-son-aboutdrinking_b_5609429.html
• Postpone or Keep Track of Uber, Lyft or Taxi Rides. While certainly safer than driving drunk or drugged, these forms of transportation enable excessive levels of drinking and other drug use. Don't allow them for younger teens without driver's licenses if you are able to be driving them. For older teens who are driving, keep track of how frequently your teen is using them. Frequent use may well indicate abuse.
• Don't Place Absolute Trust in Designated Drivers. Our California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) results show that too many so-called designated drivers drive are simply less drunk or high than their passengers (28% of Tam District's 11th graders admit to driving under the influence or being a passenger in a car with a driver under the influence). Moreover, many kids have the mistaken belief that driving stoned is slower and safer than driving drunk. Both are dangerous.
• Stay Away from Party Buses. Just say "no" to this one outside of Prom as there are significant risks to party buses. Party buses enable extreme levels of partying. Last summer in Marin, police intercepted a typical party bus loaded with young teens and copious amounts alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. Read about it here. Note that this party bus incident was not an isolated one but rather was typical of buses rented for birthday parties, New Year's Eve and Prom. Marin County's Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke and Sheriff Robert Doyle said it best in their response to the incident: party buses are bad news. This opinion piece cites our BTI program and also has several excellent common sense suggestions that parents may use before allowing their teens to participate in social activities.
• Be Mindful about Your Own Use: Model Responsibility and Moderation in Your Own Behavior. As stated before, this may be the most important tip of all. While the BTI Commitment is about parenting teens and not policing adults, consider limiting your alcohol intake when around your teens (and younger kids). A glass or two with a meal isn't a parenting crime. Yet, when hosting or attending a child-related event, keep it alcohol free. Never drive while under the influence. If your kids are going out, you may have to be sober to pick them up. Remember that while your teens may pretend not to hear you - they are listening and are watching your actions and are eager to point out your hypocrisies!