Parents of teenagers: Give yourselves a round of applause. Yes, you read that correctly. You are doing great! The number of teens who were brought to Chicago emergency rooms after life-threatening binge drinking episodes during Lollapalooza decreased a whopping 27% in 2015 compared to 2014. No other weekend had such a dramatic change in underage binge drinking emergency room visits.
Although we can never know for sure why there was such a remarkable decrease, it is not unreasonable to assume that increased awareness from all of the media attention last year (which included reminding parents that their teens really do listen to them about health issues) led to the change. It is easy for you to forget how much influence you have on your teen’s actions during your child’s third eye roll in a typical evening, but you do.
Tips for Discouraging Underage Drinking
Studies have identified four styles of parenting. The one we should aspire to is authoritative: “Authoritative parents exert high control and discipline along with high warmth and responsiveness. For example, they offer praise for good grades and use thoughtful discipline and guidance to help improve low grades (Baumrind, 1978).”
Even if this hasn’t been your approach in the past, it is not too late for you to begin to set high expectations for your kids and provide them the support that they need to make healthy decisions.
Here are a few tips to get you started this weekend:
- Tell your kids that you hope they have a good time at Lolla, but, if they are underage, you expect them not to drink alcohol (or use any other drugs for that matter). You may be thinking that your kids won’t listen to you, but, again, multiple studies have shown that for health related matters, teens listen to their parents.
- Talk to the parents of the other teens your child is attending the music fest with and share with them your expectation that your child won’t drink and you hope that they support this stance. Most likely they will agree with you. A united parental front about expectations of teen behavior will carry additional weight.
- Require that they check in with you every few hours by phone or text.
- Know where they are sleeping after the concert. If they are going to another teen’s house, make sure her parent is home and awake when they arrive.
This year I will be able to check if these recommendations actually work. For the first time, my daughter is attending Lolla with a friend. While she is enjoying the good music (and keeping hydrated with WATER), I will be working in our emergency department where I hope not to see your child — or mine!