09 Feb 5 Supportive Ways to Discuss Drinking and Driving with Your Kids
Many influences are available to young people through media, peers, but perhaps the most powerful are the examples of close family members who serve as models of behavior—good and bad. Keep these points in mind when discussing drinking and driving with your son or daughter.
1) Do as I say AND as I do is your best way to model the behavior choices you expect in your young adult. Never expect behavior from your son or daughter that you haven’t demonstrated for them in your life. Your consistent example provides a standard of behavior as well as maintaining your integrity.
2) Deal with alcohol and drug use honestly and set up an atmosphere of trust.
You can address your concerns but make it clear that it is more important for you to handle these issues as a family than to keep dangerous secrets. Discuss the fact that personal safety is much more important than any behavioral expectations. Be clear that you want and need to talk about anything they need to discuss even if your son or daughter is afraid of disappointing you.
3) Have a plan ahead of time to handle alcohol use of your young driver or their companions.
While stressing that your son or daughter should never drink and drive, it is equally important that they understand they should never get into any vehicle that is being driven by someone who has been drinking. More than half of 15-20 year olds killed in crashes each year are passengers in the vehicle!
Make a promise that you will pick them up or arrange to have them picked up no matter what the hour or situation. This promise doesn’t mean you can’t have a discussion with them after the fact. Leave the discussion to the next day when your emotions and any hangover they may have is stabilized and you both are ready to talk.
4) Don’t downplay or ‘gloss over’ your past mistakes. They will think it gives them license to do the same. If your son or daughter has seen you drink and drive in the past, be forthright about it and discuss it openly and pointedly. Admit your mistake fully and acknowledge that no amount of drinking and driving is “safe”. Adopt a policy of “One is Too Many” if you are driving.
5) Be open and discuss with them that their choice to drink and drive or ride with someone who has been drinking could have permanent consequences. Most young people feel invulnerable and drinking can strengthen that feeling and give a false impression of capability. Remind your son or daughter to always think about 5 people in their lives who would be devastated if anything happened to them – before making that choice to drink and drive.
No parent ever wants to worry when their children are out with friends or receive the dreaded phone call that their son or daughter is in the hospital – or worse. As parents, we want our children to have freedom and learn to be responsible and trustworthy. By keeping the lines of communication open and safe to share and simultaneously demonstrating the kind of behavior we wish our children to adopt, we can set the stage for a safe coming of age and a (relatively) smooth passage into adulthood.
Special Thanks to St. Jude Retreats for providing this article. Saint Jude’s is a Non-12 Step program that offers residents of the U.S. a permanent & lasting solution to Addictions. You can learn more about them at www.soberforever.net.