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Year-end brings about the season of gathering, celebration and warm-hearted holiday cheer. The holiday season is also a time when teens and underage youth are exposed to alcohol and events where drinking is underway, and driving under the influence is a heightened concern.
Nationally, 40 percent of highway deaths during the Thanksgiving holiday are alcohol related, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). That number decreases slightly during the Christmas holiday to 37 percent, and increases drastically on New Year’s Day to 57 percent. More than 300 people have died in alcohol-related crashes in North Dakota over the past five years. Historically, more fatalities occur during Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, and Labor Day than other holidays, and alcohol is a factor in about 40-50 percent of all fatal crashes in North Dakota annually, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT).
While we understand that driving under the influence is both dangerous and illegal with far-reaching consequences, we don’t always acknowledge the more insidious risks to youth: easy access and exposure to alcohol.
According to Director of Adolescent Medicine at the New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, Dr. Karen Soren, the holiday season is the time when parents and children will no doubt be “thrust into social situations where one group generally consumes alcohol while the other watches.” This can give our kids mixed signals about what acceptable behavior looks like.
We value our time with family and loved ones, so it’s important to plan for the greater care and responsibility needed to keep everyone safe. Here are some tips:
Set a Positive Example
Set a positive example by always having a designated driver present, or acting as the designated driver yourself. If you host a holiday party at your home, give out taxi information to all party-goers so they are prepared with a safe ride home. Always have non-alcoholic drinks available for those who would prefer to drive home. Remember to set a limit and stick to it. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest men have no more than two drinks a day, and women one.
Handle Stress in a Healthy Way
Teens often are dealing with the stress associated with the close of the semester, and may be more likely to be looking for a “release.” They may turn to alcohol in social situations to celebrate or decompress. Help them plan to deal with stress. One good way to decrease stress during the holiday season is to give back. Volunteer with your teen and participate in charitable activities to help bring things back into perspective for the entire family.
Discuss Expectations, Actions and Consequences
Talk to your child early and often about the harms of underage drinking. Make it clear that while you can’t monitor them 24/7 or control the choices they make, you expect that they will not drink alcohol. In our community, alcohol consumption is sometimes viewed as a “rite of passage” for youth, but alcohol consumption comes with an age restriction for a reason—delayed initiation of alcohol use decreases their risk of developing a substance use disorder later. It’s important to keep the conversation casual and open— ask them to discuss their feelings with you and encourage your teen to work with you to create a holiday party plan everyone can agree with.
Article written by Katie Beyer, Alcohol Prevention Coordinator at City County Health District.
Partnership for Success partnered with Jamestown Middle School student council to promote health awareness and prevention with Red Ribbon Week October 30 – November 3. The Red Ribbon Campaign is a national campaign that occurs annually promoting drug, alcohol, and tobacco prevention. The student council and advisers organized activities, as well as planned dress up days for each day of the week. The event conclude with an activity night on Friday, November 3 at the middle school where kids were provided a safe place to hang out, play fun games, and participate in activities.
To find a hard copy of the brochure near you, visit a variety of locations in Jamestown including the Civic Center, Buffalo Museum, Park and Rec, various hotels, and Central Valley Health District.
OR print it yourself/save on your mobile device here:
Central Valley Health’s Partnership for Success hosted a booth at the Jamestown Community Block Party on August 31 to collect data regarding underage drinking in the community. Two groups were surveyed including:
- College aged students 18-20 years old
- All adults over 21
There were 419 surveys completed at the event. The document below illustrates some of the intriguing results from the effort. If you have any questions regarding the data, please contact the PFS grant coordinator, Shannon Kaiser, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-252-8130.
GOOD CHOICES LEAD TO GOOD OUTCOMES THIS GRADUATION SEASON
Jamestown, N.D. – This time of the year is busy for parents and families; it is the season for high school graduation celebrations. Central Valley Health is reminding parents to model good behavior for the upcoming graduation weekend and to “Be a Responsible Host, Don’t Use Alcohol to Toast.” Central Valley encourages good choices because they contribute to good outcomes. Parents are the number one influence in the lives of their kids. Parents and adults can help kids make good choices by doing the following:
- Modeling responsibility this graduation season.
- Not serving or allowing alcohol to be consumed by an underage person at a party you are hosting. Providing alcohol to a minor is breaking the law and this behavior also portrays to youth that underage drinking as acceptable.
- A local survey found that 90.3% of adults in the Region reported that it is not okay for parents to offer alcoholic beverages in their homes to youth.1
- Continuing to keep our youth safe – underage drinking may lead to unintentional injury which is the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 44 in Stutsman County.
Talking to teens about drinking can sometimes be challenging, but it is worth it when it comes to safety. Parents – start the conversation with your teen by discussing your concerns with the graduation and summer festivities. Remember, you play a large role in influencing your child’s behavior.
For more information about alcohol laws in North Dakota, go to http://www.parentslead.org/what-are-laws-nd.
For more resources on how to talk to kids about alcohol go to http://www.parentslead.org/whatdoisay-grades10-12 or http://www.parentslead.org/whatdoisay-college%26youngadult
1 North Dakota Community Readiness Survey, 2015.