Letter to the Editor: Help Keep Teens Safe This Holiday Season

Photo: Wayside Youth & Family Support Network logo.

You might know me as the “Slices of Life” columnist, or as Minutes Recorder for various Belmont committees, but I’m also a Public Health Educator, now working with Wayside Youth & Family Support Network to oversee Belmont’s implementation of grants focused on drug/alcohol use and mental health disorders. In that capacity, and as a fellow Belmont parent, I thought I’d share some of Wayside’s tips for helping to keep our teens safe this holiday season.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered several years ago in Belmont, revealed that approximately one-third of our teenage students admitted they are drinking. Most are getting their alcohol from older siblings, older friends, or home.  In many instances, their parents do not know how much they drink – or even that they drink at all.

This is not only illegal, it’s dangerous. Teen alcohol use can lead to unsafe behaviors that puts our kids’ health and safety at risk. Due to their developing brains, teens tend to drink too much when they drink. And those who drink endanger more than themselves: teens who drink put themselves at risk for alcohol poisoning, car crashes, injuries, violence, or unprotected and/or unwanted sex.

As a parent of three teens, I thought I would share the following tips to reduce teen drinking:

  • Keep alcohol in a secure location, preferably in locked cabinets. Even if you trust your teen, their friends may be tempted by what’s available in your home.
  • If you are hosting a party, do not leave unsupervised alcohol around where it is accessible to underage guests. And tell other relatives not to serve alcohol to your child under the age of 21.
  • Let your child know what you expect. Tell your teen that adults may be drinking during the holidays, but under no circumstances is he/she allowed to drink alcohol.
  • If your child is attending a party, check on the details. Find out if there will be parental supervision, and be sure no alcohol will be available at the parties that your teen will be attending.  Wait up to greet your child when he/she arrives home at curfew time.
  • Make sure not to leave your teenagers home alone if you go out of town. Word gets out quickly and a drinking party can develop, sometimes without your child’s consent.
  • Do not relax your family rules with your own teens during the holidays; it can be difficult to return to previous expectations.

Did you know that for every year a teen does not use alcohol, the odds of lifelong dependence decrease by 15 percent? That’s worth keeping in mind. Avoidance now is an investment in the lifelong health of our teens.

Please do what you can to reduce youth access to alcohol; it really does take a village!

If I can be of support to you or your teens, please contact me at Lisa_Gibalerio@WaysideYouth.org

Lisa Gibalerio

Wayside Youth & Family Support Network

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