With autumn comes back-to-school dances for high schools and all the temptations that can coincide with teen social events—whether or not they are school-sponsored. What does this mean for your teen? In many cases, it can mean exposure to drugs and alcohol and one of their first opportunities to drink or get high in a recreational setting with minimal adult supervision. Due to the overwhelmingly dangerous and often life-altering things that can happen when young teens drink or use drugs, it is extraordinarily important that the school, parents and the community at large work together to provide the best possible means of promoting a drug-free environment.
Factors Influencing Choice
Your teen will face enormous pressures when he’s alone with his peers. Whether they are external (e.g., others expecting or pushing him to be a part of the group and get high or drunk) or internal (e.g., the need to feel cool or fit in), there are a number of different factors that can influence his ultimate choice, including:
- Parental relationship
- Parental modeling
- Communication at home
- Boundaries at home
- Genetic predisposition
- Sense of self-worth
- Level of respect for authority
Being a proactive parent is not always easy but setting healthy boundaries before key events such as dances will allow your child to know exactly what is expected of him, as will giving him tips on how to get out of uncomfortable situations.
Schools Taking Action
In many communities, school-sponsored dances are just the first stop of the evening for many teens. In an effort to combat the massive increase in drunk driving and related deaths associated with these events, some schools are offering safe alternatives. One school in Unionville, PA, is attempting to protect its students by encouraging them to stay at the school event all night; they offered a raffle for a used car (donated by a local dealership) as a door prize that was held at the end of the evening. Other schools have done the same, but substituted an iPad, a college scholarship, and other prizes in place of the car.
Set Your Teen Up for Success
In addition to talking to your teen in advance of a school social event about how they can handle the issue of drugs and alcohol, you can also take an active role to help ensure that your child is effectively protected. You can:
- Volunteer at the dance
- Offer to drive your child to and from the event
- Have your child check in with you by phone regularly throughout the evening
- Set a reasonable curfew and stand by it
- Stay up until your son returns home and check in with him to find out how the evening was, whom he saw, what happened, and whether or not he had to deal with alcohol or other drugs
How has your son’s school been proactive in protecting its students from drug and alcohol abuse at social events? Leave us a comment below and share your experience.