Q: Prom is coming up and I am nervous about the drinking that may be involved.

Any tips on how to deter drinking and keep my child safe?


A: Your concerns about the alcohol use at this time of the year are well founded. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that on a typical prom weekend throughout the U.S, there are 5,202 teens who are injured and 48 who are killed in car accidents. Prom and graduation, unfortunately, are likely to increase the incidences of drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There are a number of things you can do to help keep your teens safe during this time.

First, talk to your children about expectations, values and consequences. You may have talked about them before, but reinforce those messages so that your children clearly understand what is expected of them.

One idea is to have a post-prom celebration at your home where you can ensure that it will be fun and appropriate for youth. Keep these ideas in mind if your home is the site for a party:

  • Be home, stay awake and monitor the party all the time.
  • Avoid sending out e-mail invites. They can be forwarded to unwanted guests.
  • Limit the area of the house where the party will be.
  • Make it clear that when friends leave the party, they do not return.
  • Serve lots of food and “fun” nonalcoholic beverages like soda in retro bottles, special flavored drinks, punches and slushies.

Other general advice:

  • If your children are riding in a limousine or party bus, be sure the company’s policy prohibits alcohol for underage children.
  • Make sure your children use their seatbelts.
  • Don’t rent a hotel room for teens.
  • Know where your children will be at all times so that you can reach them.
  • Devise a plan in case your children get in an unsafe environment and need your help to get out.
  • Stay up until your children come home so you can talk with them.
  • If your children will be attending a party, make sure it is a dry one. Contact the parents directly and ask if they will be allowing alcohol.

Many parents believe that if children are going to drink alcohol they should do it safely in their own house. They host a party and take away the keys from the kids who are allowed to drink and sleep overnight.

This may seem “safer,” but parents who allow underage alcohol consumption put themselves at a great risk. It is illegal for adults to distribute alcohol to minors. Tickets start at $300 for this infraction, and the lawsuits that could results are even more costly. The biggest downside, however, is that teens will have gotten the message that it is OK to drink and break the law.