As spring and summer approach, so too does the heightened risk that adolescents and young adults will abuse alcohol or experiment with drugs – and for many, the consequences are deadly!

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), while June and July are the peak months for teen drinking and drug use, the danger-zone starts as early as the spring, with Graduation parties and Proms kicking off the festivities. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that approximately 1,000 kids under age 21 die each year in preventable tragedies while celebrating their high school proms and graduations.

This is whyit is critical that you speak to your children about underage drinking prior to Prom season. Unsure how to navigate this conversation or whether it’s really necessary?

Here are some tips and insights. 

  • Voice your concerns about the abuse of alcohol and drugs at parties, and reinforce the notion that you trust your child to make the right choice. Studies have shown that parents have a significant influence on young people’s decisions about alcohol consumption and their perception of drug use – this is particularly true when children are raised in supportive, nurturing environments where they can make their own decisions.
  • Remind them that if they need you, you will be there for them, whether they have been consuming alcohol and find themselves at risk, or if they are simply in a situation where alcohol and drugs are being used and they want to get away. If they know they can turn to you without being judged, they will be far more likely to do so.
  • Start the conversation way earlier than you think it necessary. Leverage “teachable moments” such as someone smoking in public, reports of drug use among neighbors/family or excess alcohol consumption at parties to explain to them the negative consequences of substance abuse. Also, educate them about peer pressure and how not to succumb to it. This lays a groundwork for continued casual conversations about drugs and alcohol as they grow up and also helps to set expectations at an early age.

And most importantly remember, however difficult it may feel to navigate the conversation, it is critical to have it – it could save their life.