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Parental Advice To Ensure Safe, Healthy Prom Nights

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 | 05:57am

NASHVILLE – Throughout April and May, millions of teenagers will prepare for and participate in that most American of events:  prom night. While this can be a fun and memorable night for teens, many parents endure stress and anxiety as the evening approaches, having concerns about driving safety, substance use and other risky behaviors.

The Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security have teamed to offer advice to parents to ensure more teens arrive home safely from a fun night out. With a little thought and planning, prom night can be magical for parents and teens alike.

“It’s natural to be concerned about the safety of your child, and we all want our children to have a positive and memorable  experience on prom night,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Having conversations and a plan for the evening will help reduce the possibility of something marring the event.”

Some suggestions for parents from the Department of Health:

• Make sure you know the complete plan for the evening, including locations where your child will go and what time you expect him or her home. There’s nothing wrong with asking what restaurant, other home or location he or she will visit during the evening. That’s the obligation of parents and teens may appreciate it, even as they roll their eyes.

• Have contact information for other parents involved in your teen’s memorable night. If there is any issue, phone numbers and street addresses are invaluable.

• Be there when your teen leaves and don’t go to sleep until you know he or she is home safely. Let teens know you’ll be willing to talk or come get them anytime they may want to call.

• If you haven’t had conversations about sex, alcohol and drugs, muster up your parenting responsibilities and talk candidly. Prom night generates peer pressure to push boundaries so discuss limits and repercussions.

• Don’t talk down to your teen or lecture with scare tactics. A better approach is, “I know you already know this, but I want you to be safe and have fun, so…”

• Assure your son or daughter it’s okay for them to call you if they feel uncomfortable in any situation and want to come home. You may want to develop a code word so a teen doesn’t have to say, “My driver is drinking – come get me.”

Getting to and from the prom is always a concern, particularly because teens may be distracted and many vehicle accidents are on weekends, when more alcohol-impaired drivers may be on the road. Teens may also be inexperienced drivers, or may be riding with a peer with limited driving experience.

“One of the most difficult duties of a state trooper is notifying parents that their teenage son or daughter has been killed in a traffic accident,” said Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons. “This time of year, the Tennessee Highway Patrol steps up its road enforcement efforts to help reduce incidents of driving under the influence. Teens must also do their part, and know the possible consequences of making the decision to drink or use drugs on prom night. It could cost them their lives.”

Some advice from the Department of Safety and Homeland Security:

• Ask about the travel route for the evening. You may want suggest an alternative that avoids more dangerous roads or heavily congested areas.

• Remind your teen of the dangers of distracted driving. Make sure he or she has made all plans for pickups, drop-offs and meeting friends before getting in the car. Stress the dangers of texting and driving.

• Ask about the driver. If a limo service is being used, learn about their policy regarding consumption of alcohol in the vehicle and whether they require use of seatbelts.

• Ask your child to be a good friend to others. If he sees someone drinking and knows that person plans to drive other friends home, tell him to notify an authority figure – a teacher, a school official, you or a police officer. Good friends don’t let friends be at risk.

• Teach your children to be very careful accepting beverages from others, even from people they perceive as friends, to avoid the possibility of alcohol or drugs being slipped into their drink.

• If your teen is going to an “after-prom” party, know where it is, if it is adult-supervised, and what time it will end.

• Tell your children you want to stay in touch if they want to share news, but they shouldn’t use their cell phone while driving, either for talking or texting.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.

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