Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and senior trial attorney.
As a parent of four children, I frequently receive notices from their schools about upcoming events that could involve my children. One of the most powerful recent notices forwarded to me from Whitman High School illustrates how important it is to constantly communicate with your children regarding safety issues. I am reproducing the school’s notice below in its entirety.
“While Homecoming is a time for fun, it is also one of those times of years when students are more likely to make a bad decision. Please take steps to keep your child safe and be forever vigilant. The tip sheet below can help you in the endeavor to help your child have safe fun!
Drugs and Alcohol Guidelines for Initiating a Healthy Parent/Teen Conversation Numerous research studies have shown that parents can positively impact their teens’ decisions about alcohol and drug use by talking with them about it. It is particularly important to have conversations about drugs and alcohol prior to social activities, whether private parties or school-sponsored activities such as Homecoming and Prom. Suggestions for starting this conversation with your teen and setting appropriate boundaries:
- Ask your teen what he/she knows about alcohol and what he/she thinks about teen drinking, including why kids drink. Listen carefully without interrupting. This approach can help your teen feel heard and respected, and leads into further discussion.
- Although many kids believe they already know everything about alcohol, myths abound. Some facts to share:
- Alcohol is a powerful drug that slows down the body and mind, impairing coordination, vision, clear thinking, reaction time, and judgment.
- Beer and wine are not safer than hard liquor.
- The younger a person begins to drink or use drugs, the higher the likelihood they will become addicted.
- On average it takes 10+ hours for a single drink to leave the system. Nothing can speed up this process, including coffee, cold showers or “walking it off.”
- People tend to be very bad at judging how seriously alcohol affects them. Many people who drive after drinking think they can control a car, but actually cannot.
- Anyone can develop a serious alcohol problem, including a teen. In fact, the mean age of alcoholism is now 16 years of age.
- Talk about good reasons why teens shouldn’t drink or use drugs (it’s illegal, to maintain self-respect, it can be dangerous and unhealthy, etc.). Don’t forget to emphasize that YOU want your child to avoid illegal drugs and alcohol. Remember that your values and attitudes count with your child, even though he or she may not always show it.
Please Remember It is illegal for parents to host parties where there is underage drinking. By Montgomery County law, parents can be held responsible and may be subject to heavy fines if there is any underage drinking on their premises. If you are out of town, please consider arranging chaperones for your home.
- Set limits and monitor your teen’s whereabouts. Ask your teen to tell you his/her destination whenever he/she leaves home, and to call if plans change. If it sounds overly vague, ask for more specifics. If you find that your teen was not completely up front in explaining his or her whereabouts, restrict his/her privileges for a while.
- Band together with other parents and present a unified front against drugs and alcohol. If none of the teens in your child’s group have total freedom, peer pressure will be reduced.
- Put yourself in your teen’s shoes. Talk to her/him about what might help to resist peer pressure. “Just say no” wears a little thin by the teen years, but you might brainstorm tactics together, such as “I don’t drink (smoke) because I don’t like the taste.” “I’m not going to have a drink because if the coach finds out, I’ll be kicked off the team.” “If my parents find out I won’t be able to use the car for a month.” “
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About the author:
Mr. Zambri is a board-certified civil trial attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocates and a Past-President of the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. The association recently named him “Trial Lawyer of the Year” (2011). He has been rated by Washingtonian magazine as a “Big Gun” and among the “top 1%” of all lawyers in the Washington metropolitan area. The magazine also describes him as “one of Washington’s best–most honest and effective lawyers” who specializes in personal injury matters, including automobile accident claims, premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, and work-accident claims. He has successfully litigated multiple cases against truck and bus companies, the Washington Metropolitan Area transit Authority, and other automobile owners. His law firm, in fact, has obtained the largest settlement ever in a personal injury case involving WMATA. Mr. Zambri has also been acknowledged as one of “The Best Lawyers in America” by Best Lawyers (2011 edition) and has been repeatedly named a “Super Lawyer” by Super Lawyer magazine (March/April 2010)– national publications that honor the top lawyers in America.