Keeping teens safe on New Year’s Eve

Drinking alcohol is often a concern for a parent of a teenager, but New Year’s Eve can bring that concern to a whole new level. Parents need to plan in advance to keep their teens safe. Susan Helms, director of Safe Kids Mid-South and Injury Prevention, shares some helpful safety tips from AAA, Middle Earth and Safe Kids Worldwide.

First, consider these statistics:

  • The average age at which teens begin to drink is 13.
  • 87 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol.
  • 20 percent of seniors report binge drinking (five or more drinks in a row).
  • The most likely holiday of the year for a teen to drink and drive is New Year’s Eve.
  • Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers; one out of three of those is alcohol-related (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).

Safe Kids Mid-South, led by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, offers several ways you can help keep your teenager safe this holiday:

Host a New Year’s Eve party at your house with NO alcohol. 

It is not that difficult or expensive to throw a fun teen party. Offer lots of snack foods. And for drinks, you can serve a lot of alcoholic-free drinks. Try this festive punch recipe:

  • Take 1 can of frozen orange juice, 1 can of frozen apple/raspberry juice and 3 bottles of sparkling apple juice. In a large punch bowl, mix the frozen juices and only one bottle of apple juice, so you don't waste the fizz. Add the other bottles right before the party starts.

Also, provide silly noisemakers and party hats. Let your teen make a music playlist to play all night and plan party games. Make sure your television is tuned in to the popular ball drop shows. Let your teen decorate the party room.

Find a community event.

Check with the visitor’s bureau. Many museums, skating rinks, bowling alleys, youth centers and church groups hold holiday parties for teens.

If your teen goes out, get every detail.  

Make sure your teen gives you a complete itinerary for the evening, including whom they will be with and where they’ll be going. Establish a couple of mandatory calls or texts during the night. Come to a fair decision on a curfew, based upon your children’s age and past level of responsibility. Know who is driving. Encourage them to go to a specific location and stay there to avoid drunk and impaired drivers on the roads. Give your teen the unconditional option of calling you at any time for help or advice. This should include picking them up at any time of day or night, with a promise not to shame or humiliate them in front of their friends.

Communicate your expectations.

The most important thing that parents can do to ensure their teen is safe is to talk about your expectations beforehand. Parents should provide leadership, guidance and boundaries. Even if you think you have already talked about making healthy choices, New Year’s Eve is a very important time to repeat this message. Do not be vague! Directly discuss alcohol, drugs, driving impaired and sex. Ask how they plan to keep safe and avoid actions they will regret. Reinforce your belief in their character and in their ability to act responsibly.

Be a role model.

Remember, your teen mimics what is seen. If you are celebrating New Year’s Eve by overindulging with alcohol, then your teen will assume that is the “right” way to celebrate regardless of what you say. If your teen sees you drink alcohol and then get in the car to drive home, then your teen will assume that it’s OK to drink and drive regardless of what you say. Actions truly do speak louder than words. Taking an active role in helping your teen make the right choices will help ensure he or she has a safe and exciting way to ring in the New Year.

safety, teens