A parent doesn’t need a degree in psychiatry to know that it’s not always easy to talk to a teenager. Having a serious discussion about the dangers of teenage drinking and driving is extra tough. However, with National Teen Driver Safety Week underway (Oct. 18 – 24), you can jump start a conversation about the dangers of impaired driving.
It’s an important conversation. But how it takes place is almost as important. Here are some ideas about how to talk to your teenager about why drinking and driving don’t mix.
National Teen Driver Safety Week is Just the Beginning
Just because it’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, your teen isn’t any more likely to be receptive to the topic. Child psychologist Shelja Sen believes that a sudden suggestion of “Let’s talk” is not necessarily the best approach to starting an important conversation.
In an article on ideas.ted.com, Sen said: “When we say ‘Let’s talk’ to our teenagers, alarm bells go off in their brains and the shutters come down.”
Meaningful conversations can happen at any time, she said. You just have to wait for the opening.
“Look for your chat window,” Sen said. “It might be while you’re driving them to their friend’s home, working in the kitchen, or brushing the dog.”
You can also make the most of opportunities such as news stories, personal incidents, or media such as TV, movies or the Internet.
Be Ready to Ask and Listen
- Discuss clear ground rules for not drinking, and be specific about consequences for drinking, including laws and risks.
- Share your concerns about drinking, but listen to concerns, questions and perspectives.
- Find out whether their peers use alcohol, or whether they feel pressure from others. Revisit the topic from time to time as your teen gets older.
- Be prepared for questions. Your teen might ask if you drank when you were underage. Be honest, and perhaps talk about an unpleasant experience related to your drinking.
Don’t worry about covering everything. Effectively communicating the risks of teenage drinking and driving may play out over a long period of time.
Sooner is Better
The Mayo Clinic notes that early adolescence is when some teens begin experimenting with alcohol or feeling peer pressure. That’s why early conversations can lay the groundwork for positive decision making later.
These discussions also let you emphasize the importance of healthy friendships. If friends drink, it creates more pressure and opportunity for your teenager. However, it’s also likely to provide you with a golden opportunity to counter the “everybody’s doing it” message.
If Your Teenager is at Risk
Sometimes it takes a while for a message to sink in. If you find that your teenager is gravitating toward potential issues with teenage drinking and driving, or other alcohol-related behaviors, portable alcohol monitoring is a potential deterrent.
Portable alcohol monitoring devices are a valuable way to get a snapshot of your teen’s behavior before it potentially becomes serious. It may seem like a drastic measure, especially in the eyes of a teenager. However, a DUI not only carries a heavy financial cost, but also can create an emotional and logistical burden as your teen moves forward as a young adult. Ultimately, it can affect everyone in the family.
Don’t Give Up – It’s That Important
It’s important to devote a special period every year for teen driver safety awareness. But it’s also essential to keep an ongoing, honest dialog about alcohol use. Over the long term, it will lay a solid foundation for making good – and safe – choices while driving.