So many of the rights of passage for our youth are held in the spring, most notably, prom and graduation. Sadly, these events are also commonly associated with underage drinking. Here at MADD, we believe it is time to change that. To celebrate these events and to keep our youth safe throughout all of them.

It is amazing how many times we hear when we are speaking that underage drinking is just part of being a teenager. That it goes hand in hand with the experiences of prom and graduation. We are here to tell you that it doesn’t have to. Just because it may have when you were young or because society has told us that it does. We can help our teens make better choices because we have better information and research than our parents did. Many years ago, we rode in cars without seatbelts and played football with leather helmets. Now, we know that we seatbelts and helmets literally save lives. The same can be said when it comes to underage drinking. We know now, that underage drinking is incredibly dangerous and we can save lives by simply keeping our kids alcohol free until the age of 21.

So, the question is how do we try to keep our kids from making the choice to drink underage. The answer is simple. Talk. About. It. Yep, it is that simple. No, we can’t promise that just because you talk about it your kid will make the choice to not drink underage. But, statistics show that teens listen to their parents when it comes to making the choice to drink underage and the most important thing we can do to ensure they wait is talk early and often. These conversations need to be specific and honest. So often parents are willing to talk to their kids about other dangers they face but shy away from specific conversations about alcohol and drugs. These conversations should focus on the science and the research behind why teens should wait until 21, instead of using scare tactics.

MADD’s Power of Parents program focuses on helping parents start these very important conversations. We worked with experts to create a program and handbook that help navigate parents through communicating with their kids. Focused specifically on middle-school and high-school students, the information included in the book is not just what you should say about alcohol. It is filled with research about the parenting styles, what your teen is going through, science-backed reasons to not drink underage and how to increase communication with your teen in general.

We encourage you to think about having a specific conversation about drugs and alcohol with your teen now, before prom and graduation roll around. And help them understand the true dangers of the choices they make. That underage drinking or drug use is not just a right of passage or something everyone is doing. It is a dangerous choice that could have a lifelong impact.