As spring blooms in AZ, the change in seasons also comes with milestones for our state’s teenagers. In the next few weeks many of them will be attending proms and graduations. While proms and graduations can have positive memories, the experiences can turn tragic when alcohol is part of the mix. Alcohol impairs judgment… potentially leading to heart-retching outcomes and regrets like sexual assault, unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and deadly car crashes. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among teens… and 1/3 of traffic deaths of 15 to 20 year olds are alcohol-related.
A national survey of more than 1,000 adolescents by the Guttmacher Institute found that 80% of first sexual experiences occurred under the influence of alcohol and about ½ of all nonconsensual sexual experiences involve alcohol use by the perpetrator, the victim or both. Another recent report called Girls and Drugs found that 1/3 of girls and young women 14 to 21 years old with unplanned pregnancies were drinking when they had sex, and 91% said they hadn’t planned to have sex.
Despite knowing all the reasons why teens shouldn’t drink, it can be challenging for them to stay clear-headed when all their friends are drinking. No one likes to feel left out, and teenagers especially feel the need for acceptance by their peers. So what can we do as parents?
You can help by finding effective ways to say no in a peer pressure situation. Self-esteem is critically important because it gives kids confidence in themselves and decisions. Talking to them leading up to the prom and graduation is also important. Take a look at the website 15 Ways a Teen Can Say No to Alcohol to learn how you can play a role in helping your teen make responsible decisions. You can also find great tips about talking to teens about alcohol use from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and at Girlshealth.gov.