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Talking with your teen about difficult subjects can be, well, difficult, but your involvement is important. Around so-called ‘partying’ holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, these talks take on even more importance and they can help keep your teen driver safe.
Impaired driving kills thousands of people each year and with more states legalizing cannabis for recreational use, there are more risks than ever. Rather than ignore these risks and hope your teen will make the right choice, you can talk about them. The same way you talk about the dangers of distracted driving, you can discuss the hazards posed by drinking and drug use, especially behind the wheel.
Here are some ideas to help.
Start the conversation
We were all teens once and most of us can remember the things we chose to share and not share with our parents. Odds are that alcohol and other taboo topics weren’t common talking points when you were a teen, so it’ll be up to you to start this conversation.
You might worry that talking about these dangers only invites them into your teen’s life, but like many things it can actually help to bring the subject to your teen. And consider this: If your teen gets into a potentially dangerous situation, you want them to want to reach out to you for help, not hide things from you out of fear. If your teen ends up being too impaired to drive, the safest thing for them to do is to call and ask you for a ride home, not try to drive themselves or ride with a friend because they’re afraid of how you’ll react. Difficult conversations after a bad decision can wait; your teen’s safety should always be the priority.
Share your concerns
It’s one thing to tell your teen, “No drugs and no alcohol ever ever ever,” but it’s another to say no and then explain why. When you say no and nothing else, you may just be giving your teen a rule to break. When you provide context and reasoning, you help them see your point of view and understand the risks and consequences.
So talk to your teen about the actual dangers associated with impaired driving – like how alcohol is involved in about 10,000 lives lost on the roads each year – to explain why it is so dangerous. Maybe you were involved in a crash with an impaired driver or know someone who was; your teen can benefit from hearing about this experience and what it taught you. The more your teen understands the real consequences of impaired driving, the more reasons they’ll have to avoid it.
Talk about it again
There’s a reason we’ve covered this topic before: important lessons don’t always stick the first time you hear them. Just because you once told your teen not to look at their phone behind the wheel doesn’t mean they never will. Repetition works and the more you can talk about something, the easier it is to remember it. This same idea can apply to impaired driving risks.
Once you have this talk, don’t feel as though your job is done and don’t be afraid to bring the subject up unannounced. Ask your teen about their plans for St. Patrick’s Day or similar holidays and remind them to make safe decisions. Above all, make sure they know they can come to you for help, including for a ride home.
It’s not about giving your teen permission to make poor choices, but helping them see what the safe and unsafe choices are. Your teen is still maturing and will undoubtedly make mistakes. Your involvement can ensure that they learn from these mistakes.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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