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Bobblehead Dad: Keeping Our Teens Safe Over Spring Break

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Want a sobering statistic? One-third of all alcohol-related teen deaths and injuries will take place in the months of April, May, June. You know, those celebratory months of Spring Break, prom and graduation. What should be a time of fun and youthful bliss results all too often in unnecessary accidents or deaths.

Want hear something even more sobering? More than a quarter of teens out there say their parents have never spoken to them about alcohol and drug use or safety.

What can a parent do?

"Plenty," according to Dr. Robert Waldman from the Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center in California. I spoke to him last week to get some direct advice from this father of three.

Dr. Waldman is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He believes that foresight, not hindsight, can be 20/20 if you talk openly with your kids in a realistic way, illuminating exactly what the repercussions are for taking unnecessary risks.

"When you make time to calmly explain what happens when a bad decision is made, you are letting that teen know you care about them," explains Dr. Waldman. "This is the time to use facts, not blanket judgment statements that 'drugs and alcohol are bad.'"

Dr. Waldman also stresses the importance of helping educate kids on healthy alternatives to a week-long drug and alcohol binge that can lead to alcohol poisoning, car accidents, sexual assaults, injuries, fights or arrests.

"The traditional spring break rally cry is that it's a time to party and get crazy so it's vital that parents know how to counsel their own children how best to have fun while they are away from home," reminds Waldman.

It's great for parents to support spring break as an opportunity for kids to relax and enjoy stress relieving activities – and many of those activities do not necessarily need to include reckless activities.

"There are much healthier ways to spend free time," said Waldman. "Encourage your children to use travel as a means to enjoy adventure and athletic activities which can build confidence, develop new life skills and create lasting memories."

The most important thing parents must do is talk with their children about safety. If they aren't doing that, their children are at a greater risk than necessary.

And while you're talking safety, don't forget these:

- don't take unnecessary risks (jumping off balconies, riding on the hood of a car, etc.)
- if they drink, set a limit and stick to it.
- if they drink, don't leave a drink unattended as it could get spiked
- don't be afraid to ask an adult for help
- don't be influenced by friends – make your own decisions
- have a communication plan with home via cell phone or other means

The most important thing parents need to do is start talking. Those kids may look like adults, but they still need guidance. So start talking. Summer will be here before you know it.

If you'd like to hear more from Dr. Waldman, you'll enjoy listening to him on my radio show, Bobblehead Dad.–-protecting-teens-during-the-high-risk-months-of-spring/

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