After eight years at the Maryland State Department of Education, Joan Webb Scornaienchi became the executive director of HC DrugFree in 2009. She has spent much of her career working in higher education and early on, she served as a drug and alcohol prevention specialist. Here Scornaienchi provides prom safety tips.
Prom season is upon us. Excitement and worry are in the air! While teens are busy making plans with their friends, many parents are volunteering with their Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the PTA Council of Howard County to plan adult-supervised safe alternatives to private post-prom parties.
Tips for parents: Please talk to your teens about their plans for prom night and encourage them to attend their PTA-sponsored after prom events instead of private parties where alcohol or drugs may be available. Remember, not all teens want to drink or use drugs, but they may not be able to handle the pressure from friends or their dates. Remember too that your child may not know their prom date as well as they think, so talk to them about basic date safety (e.g., being alone in a vehicle with someone they hardly know, how alcohol/drug use can lead to loss of inhibitions, trusting their instincts to stay safe, etc.). Know where your teen is all evening/night.
Let your teen know what your expectations are with respect to alcohol, drugs, driving, dates, parties and curfew. If you tell your teen there will be consequences for unacceptable behaviors, be sure you follow through. Teens in several Howard County focus groups surprised HC DrugFree staff by saying when parents set consequences and do not follow through. According to your teens, they want and need to know they can trust your word for little things (such as coming in 10 minutes late), so they know you can be trusted with bigger issues. If you say it, mean it, and follow through. By the way, HC DrugFree staff never used the word consequences in any teen focus group, yet, teens used it in every setting. Some teens clearly said parents “lie” by not following through. That was tough for staff to hear, but the good news is that your kids said they want you to be their safe place and need you to protect them.
Be sure your child can contact you or another responsible adult (grandparent, neighbor, family friend, etc.) to go get them if they find themselves in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. If you’ve attended an HC DrugFree event, then you know I encourage all families to have a secret code/phrase for youth to use, so parents know their children need immediate help. The example I like to use is if your son never feeds the family dog, and he calls home to say he forgot to feed the dog, then you would know he needs help or is feeling pressured by his friends. Tell your son that he has to come home NOW, and you are on your way to get him. Drop everything and go. No debate. No questions (until later when you are alone with him). Parents need to assume the phone is on speaker, and friends can hear the conversation or read their texts. Even if your child is somewhere he shouldn’t be, be grateful he called you. Practice the code. Ideally, this code should begin when your child is very young, but it’s never too late.
Above all, please don’t be the adult who buys alcohol for teens, hosts parties with drugs and/or alcohol, or allows other adults to put any of our children in danger.
HC DrugFree is committed to keeping Howard County teens safe during this 2016 prom season and throughout the year. Please visit our website at www.hcdrugfree.org, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, email us at Info@hcdrugfree.org or call 443-325-0040.