outreach: teen choices

*Tyler had just finished his freshman year in college. He had enjoyed all the freedoms and independence college affords and while he did well academically, he also liked to party. When he returned home for the summer, his parents noticed Tyler was going out more frequently, coming home intoxicated and often riding in cars with friends who had been drinking. They were concerned about his behaviors and the risks he was facing. While he had not been in any legal trouble, they wanted to arm him with knowledge about the consequences he could potentially face and help him make better choices.

*Becca was about to begin her freshman year in high school. She was a star student and athlete who had a good group of friends. Her parents never really discussed drinking or drugs with her because she seemed so young and “wasn’t that type of kid.” When her mom innocently read some text messages between Becca and her friends and realized she had been at a small party where beer and vodka were being passed around, it shocked her. They realized it was time to educate her on how to handle herself in that type of situation as well as learn strategies to best parent a teen being newly exposed.

*Trish had her driver’s license for six months. She was feeling comfortable driving and loved the freedom of her own car. She had been out with her friends at a bonfire and while she only had a few beers, she felt she was pretty sober which made her think it was a good idea to drive. On the way home, she was pulled over and cited for underage drinking. As part of her legal consequences, she was mandated to attend a drug and alcohol awareness class.

Tyler, Becca, and Trish all attended the Choices program at Outreach Teen & Family Services. Choices takes place on the third Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This interactive and educational program addresses the physical, psychological and legal consequences of drug and alcohol use; the impact of mass media on teen substance use; the addiction process and refusal techniques. The program also offers a parent component to share the same information and discuss with parents the importance of setting limits, being consistent and enforcing consequences.

These stories are not unique; youth are drinking at an earlier age and engaging in binge drinking at alarming rates. These teens are more likely to experience school problems, social problems and legal issues, and be at greater risk for physical and sexual assaults, abuse of other drugs, and alcohol related automobile accidents and death. Always keep the door open with your teen to discuss drinking related topics and answer questions they may have. And if you have questions, Outreach can help. It’s never, ever too late to talk to your teen about drug and alcohol abuse!

* Tyler, Becca, and Trish represent typical Outreach clients. Details do not correspond with any specific case in order to protect client anonymity.

Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer counseling and educational programs to teens and parents that are affordable, accessible and discreet; all within a welcoming, supportive environment. www.outreachteen.org

This column is made possible in part by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.


Photo: iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz