- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 18, 2001

How to help your child say no to drugs and alcohol:

• Talk with your teen. Studies confirm that parents can have a significant impact on whether their teen-agers will engage in risky behaviors, including using alcohol. Speak openly to your son or daughter about alcohol. Create clear family rules and expectations by setting a "no alcohol" rule and supporting such an environment with "zero-tolerance" consequences if such rules are broken.

• Provide structure. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that teen children of "absentee parents" were four times more likely to abuse substances than children in highly structured homes. Find a responsible adult, neighbor, relative or friend who can look in on your child or share the responsibility for creating activities for your children. Give your teens tasks, such as cooking dinner and make sure these tasks are completed.

• Host a party. Throw a teen party in your own home following clearly stated guidelines of no drugs or alcohol. Don't serve beverages in cups, which easily are tampered with; instead, use cans or bottles. Ask another parent to help chaperone. When a guest leaves, do not allow him or her to return. Make your presence known, and if you suspect that a guest has used alcohol or drugs, contact their parents immediately.

• Foster self-confidence. Instill self-confidence in your teens by talking with them about peer pressure. At some point, your children will be offered alcohol. According to the National Institutes of Health, teens say they prefer quick "one-liners" that allow them to dodge a drink without making a big scene. In addition, encourage and praise your teens; participate in their lives and know what they're doing and with whom.

• Lay down the law. The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia all have "zero-tolerance" laws making it a crime for people under age 21 to purchase, possess, consume or transport alcohol. In addition, all three localities are clamping down on the use of fake IDs, resulting in fines up to $1,000 and a driver's license suspension for up to one year.

• Ensure safety. You may have every confidence in the world that your teen won't drink alcohol. However, if your child is out with someone who has been drinking, make sure he or she knows not to be a passenger in a car driven by anyone under the influence.

• Be aware of your civil liability. It's unlawful for parents to allow their children's friends to consume alcohol in their home. If these same "friends" are later involved in a crash, those parents may be responsible for injuries, property damages and wrongful death. They also may face criminal charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

• Be a role model. Parents should be good role models by making sure their behavior is appropriate. Use alcohol moderately, be a responsible host and never drink and drive.

• Don't wait. If you suspect your child is using alcohol, intervene. Talk to your child and obtain qualified professional help.Source: Washington Regional Alcohol Program

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