The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently launched a new national campaign called “Talk. They Hear You.” that empowers parents to talk to children as young as nine years old about the dangers of underage drinking. The kickoff occurred in conjunction with SAMHSA’s 2013 National Prevention Week—an annual health observance dedicated to increasing awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues.
SAMHSA’s latest report on underage drinking shows that more than a quarter of American youth engage in underage drinking. Although there has been progress in reducing the extent of underage drinking in recent years, particularly among those aged 17 and younger, the rates of underage drinking are still unacceptably high.
“Talk. They Hear You.” raises parents’ awareness about these issues and arms them with information they need to help them start a conversation about alcohol with their children before their children become teenagers.
Parental influence is the most important factor in helping keep teens safe, and MADD’s Power of Parents program focuses on educating parents and caregivers about the dangers of underage drinking, and provides them the tools they need to talk with their kids about alcohol. (Download the parent handbook for tips and tools to help you start this lifesaving conversation.)
Underage alcohol use and mental health issues often go hand in hand. We know that teens with certain mental health issues, like antisocial personality disorder or weak belief in their own ability to resist social pressure, are significantly more likely to drink. Likewise, there are very few mental health problems that underage drinking can’t make worse, like low self-esteem, depression, deviant behaviors, and even thoughts of suicide.
You could look at this as a negative spiral, but the good news is that it’s also a positive one – if you can prevent underage drinking, you can help teen mental health, and vice versa. That’s why MADD is proud to support National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 9th.
On Awareness Day, SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) works to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health. MADD is working through our Power of Parents program to provide parents and guardians tools and resources to help them build a better relationship with their teens on the firm grounds of mutual respect, open communication and shared expectations.
We are also working with teens through the Power of You(th) program, giving them the tools to help their friends stay happy, healthy and alcohol-free. This fits right into Awareness Day, where SAMHSA focuses on how social connections help young people thrive in later life.
If you want more information about Children's Mental Health, including materials and resources and getting involved in Awareness Day, visit www.samhsa.gov/children.
May 1st begins Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, an annual campaign held each May to bring awareness of the fact that summer is the deadliest time on the roads for youth in the U.S. This campaign is hosted by our friends at the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) Coalition.
Help youth make this summer safe on the roads by reminding them of these key tips from NOYS:
JST DRV – avoid all distractions – they can wait!
ALWAYS buckle up!
PLAN your route and your ride – take the safest way and ride with safe drivers!
STAND up for your own safety – Speak up and get out if you need to!
We’d also like to add: Don’t drink until age 21 and never get in the car with someone who has been drinking.
You can find additional tips from MADD’s Power of Parents program about teen driving safety and the Graduated Driver’s License Law to help your teen beat the odds here.
Provided by Nationwide Insurance®, the national presenting sponsor of the Power of Parents® program. Nationwide also offers exclusive discounts to MADD supporters, learn more.
Guide your new teen driver along the path to responsible road-sharing.
If you’re nervous about your teenager getting behind the wheel, you have good reason to be concerned. Teen drivers are four times as likely to crash as older drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Since two major contributors to these accidents are immaturity and lack of experience, parents can play an important role in getting kids off to a good start.
Discourage seat belt excuses. “Teens’ explanations include ‘I was just going down the block,’ ‘No one else wears them’ and ‘They’re too uncomfortable,’” says Anne Marie Hayes, president of the Teens Learn to Drive Foundation. “But there are no good excuses.”
Take a hands-on approach. Experts recommend that teens drive for only 100 hours, supervised, during the first year. “This is structured, active parent coaching,” Hayes says. “Make sure to have your child practice on all kinds of roads, in various lighting and weather conditions.” Model good driving practices at all times with your children, no matter what age they are.
Encourage a whole road perspective. Help your child take advantage of the entire panorama of visual detail before them. “They must take note of any cars pulling away from side parking spots and watch for pedestrians who might cut across the path from either sidewalk,” says Susan Kuczmarski, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. “Then check for pedestrians on the crosswalk at the approaching stop sign. Monitor the rear-view mirror for activity behind the driver, and always look for fast-moving rollerbladers, bicyclists and pets that might suddenly cross in front.”
Talk it out. When doing a ride-along with your teen, ask him or her to describe the decisions being made during the drive. This will help you understand his or her thought processes. “Listen closely to see if your teen is missing anything,” Kuczmarski says. “Give feedback based on both what you’re hearing and on the driving.” Similarly, when you’re driving, let your teen know why you make certain choices on the road in the interest of safety.
Get it in writing. Many families come up with a driving agreement that spells out specific penalties for violations. Obviously, texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel is a clear violation that needs to be addressed. Consider adding respect for traffic lights, right-of-way rules and speed limits. “This way, when a friend in the car tells your teen, ‘Speed up!’ your teen will know that he or she could lose driving privileges for a month,” Hayes says.
I am honored and motivated to work on achieving MADD’s mission every day. I am inspired by the victims we serve. Their stories put a voice and face on stark statistics. At least once a week, I volunteer as a victim advocate for MADD’s 24-hour 1-877-MADD-HELP line.
On a recent Sunday morning, I took a call from a bereaved mom. In tears, she told me her story. Her 19-year-old son died of alcohol poisoning while at college. She told me that on several occasions she told him to never drink and drive. “I thought I covered all the important topics with him,” she said. “I will forever regret that I didn’t tell him to not drink alcohol until he was at least 21 years old. Perhaps that advice would have saved his life.”
My heart aches for this mom and all other loved ones who have to live without their children due to alcohol related deaths. I am a mom, my most important role. I have two boys – a senior in college and a senior in high school. They are at critical stages in their life. As a parent, you want to protect them and give them guidance that helps them build healthy, happy lives.
I’ve utilized the Power of Parents handbook for the helpful tips to have the conversation with them about the dangers of underage drinking. I’ve had the conversation with them many times. Sometimes, I get the response, “we know mom!”
Today, April 21st, is PowerTalk 21 Day—the day set aside for us to talk with our children about the dangers of drinking before the age of 21. I hope you will be inspired by this one bereaved mom’s story and have this important conversation with your kids. Take hold of the influence parents have, and download the Power of Parents handbook.
As one very proud parent and MADD advocate, I wish you and your children good health, safety and happiness.