- Prevention & Early Intervention
These two words create two very different responses in teens and law enforcement. Where high school students hear romance, excitement and passage to adulthood, adults who work with teens hear pregnancy, driving under the influence and roads to ruin.
If our culture had tried to create an event designed to endanger adolescents, this one would have been tough to top since prom nights promote about every lethal risk factor known to teens. Is this an over statement? Perhaps, but before you decide, first know these frightening facts about teens, booze and cars from National Institutes of Health www.nih.gov.
- New teen drivers have twice the rate of car accidents of older drivers.
- Crash risks (even for sober teens) increase exponentially with numbers of passengers. One passenger equals a 50 percent increase in the likelihood of a crash. Two passengers bring the likelihood to 200 percent. Three or more - the risk increases by 300 or 500 percent!
- Fifty percent of fatal teen-driver accidents occur after dark, even though only 20 percent of teen driving occurs at night.
- Now add in these staggering prom night numbers from a survey of 11th and 12th graders conducted by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and the Chrysler Corporation. When asked about their upcoming prom night, the kids reported that:
- Fifty percent will drive themselves and a date; 25 percent will drive four or more passengers (meaning a three- to five-fold increased crash risk).
- Eightysix percent of the drivers will drive after midnight; 50 percent after 2 a.m.
- Seventyfour percent reported pressure to drink that night; 49 percent felt pressed to do other drugs.
- Fiftyseven percent felt pressured to drive recklessly (i.e. speeding or ignoring traffic signals to "act cool").
What Can Adults Do?
- Respectfully say, "Don't drink. It's dangerous! Booze kills more kids than all other drugs combined." Adults who don't repeatedly tell kids that drinking is dangerous are adults who silently tell kids that drinking is okay. Contrary to the myth, kids do listen when adults speak with respect.
- Get kids driven to the prom. Parents might offer to rent a cool car (that only the parents can drive) or to help cover limo costs (with an ex drill sergeant driver).
- Negotiate for supervision and safety. Parents, schools and civic/religious groups can offer to host "cool" (teen designed, but adult supervised) post-prom events such as "lock-in" all night bowling, movie or swim parties.
- DO NOT PROVIDE BOOZE TO TEENS on prom night or any other time. If I insult you with that suggestion, congratulations! You are not among the 33 percent of parents who voluntarily provide alcohol to adolescents, nor among the 24 percent who drink with their teens (JAMA, 4/05).
- Get in the faces of those other parents and ask, "What in God's name are you doing?" If parents of teens start speaking up about this insanity, many more of our kids would live to tell of how boring their prom was.
The disquieting fact is that those formally-dressed, adult-looking, teenaged bodies are usually being operated by impulsive, judgment-impaired, child brains that are not yet ready to safely navigate the threatening streets of prom night on their own.
Of course, when told this kids will sigh, roll their eyes and slam doors because their prom nights are "being ruined." But wise adults know that caring about teenagers means caring enough to be hated at times.
Did You Know?
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign asked youth ages 9 to 17 why people choose to stay away from drugs. The #1 answer chosen was family. Parents do not always realize how important their role remains as their children grow into adolescents. Positive communications between children and adults, limits set and enforced by parents, and positive adult role models help teens resist drugs as well as other risk behaviors.
Adolescence represents a developmental stage during which both teens and their parents test the limits and boundaries of control.
Unofficial Rules of Adolescence
Adolescence represents a developmental stage during which both teens and their parents test the limits and boundaries of control. The following rules, while not advocated, can be expected in today's society.
- Fitting In - Finding a group in which you can feel accepted.
- Trying Out - Testing boundaries by trying out new experiences.
- Trying On - Trying on different identities or “costumes” that may or may not ultimately fit.
- Saving Face - Avoiding feelings of rejection, humiliation, failure and shame.
- Getting Over - Breaking, bending or ignoring rules just to prove you can.
- Getting Some - Coping with sexual tension generated by changing brain and body.
- Getting Mine - Sense of entitlement born of exaggerated focus on materialism.
- Getting Out- Avoiding the claustrophobic perception of dependence and subservience.
This article was taken from "Unofficial Rules of Adolescence" by Scott Frank, M.D., M.S., Director, Shaker Heights Health Department and the Master of Public Health Program, Case Western Reserve University. It was excerpted from a newsletter of Dr. Michael Bradley, Ph.D., author of "Yes, Your Teen is Crazy!"
Learn more about Bellefaire JCB's Prevention and Early Intervention program