New Jersey – June is a time of celebration for millions of teens who will be graduating from high school. While many schools plan get-togethers immediately following the ceremony, additional parties with friends and family are a traditional part of this rite of passage.
The mission of Ocean County's DART Coalition, funded by a grant awarded to Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention, is to engage Ocean County residents in the process of reducing substance abuse among youth in the County and over time the community as a whole. The Coalition, which develops environmental strategies to achieve its goal, is comprised of more than 80 Ocean County community leaders including law enforcement and government officials, educators, business owners, substance abuse professionals, clergy, students and other youth.
The DART Coalition offers the following suggestions to parents to ensure safe, alcohol-free graduation celebrations:
- Talk and talk some more. "Parents may be surprised to learn that their teens really are listening when they talk to them about alcohol use," explains Robert Goldschlag, Director, DART Coalition. "Set up a time to talk to your teen about your expectations of his/her behavior surrounding graduation and offer solid facts about the dangers of underage drinking. The powerofparents.org, drugfree.org and/or your teen's school are great resources for information about the impact of alcohol on young adults."
- Keep a calendar. Knowing where your teen is, and who he/she is celebrating with, are important parts of ensuring they are acting responsibly and spending time with those who are doing the same.
Sit down together and make a calendar of the parties he/she will be attending, where they will be held and be clear regarding which adults will be in attendance. "Because you may not personally know the adults hosting every celebration your child will be attending, it is a good practice to contact them prior to the party to confirm alcohol is not on the menu," describes Goldschlag. "Although it is illegal and dangerous, many adults are willing to serve alcohol to minors. It is important that you are clear regarding the host's position regarding alcohol, before you give your teen permission to attend."
- Encourage your teen to keep in touch. In today's technology-driven world, it is very easy to have your teen stay in touch throughout an evening when they are attending a celebration. Ask him/her to send you a text when they arrive and another when they are leaving, so you can anticipate when they will be home. "Even a quick email to keep you informed is helpful," says Goldschlag.
The DART Coalition of Ocean County is funded by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health & Addiction Services.
For more information on the DART Coalition, please contact the Institute for Prevention at 732-914-3815 or visit www.instituteforprevention.com/dart.