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November 26, 2013

New Year Brings Fun, Unsafe Behavior

By Tampa Bay Parenting

It’s the end of a great year, and there are many things to celebrate. From successes at school and achievements at work, to new goals and a fresh start, New Year’s Eve is an exciting time with plenty of celebrations. Unfortunately, there are also opportunities to be exposed to unsafe behavior. Champagne and other alcoholic beverages, along with tobacco, cigarettes and even illegal substances like marijuana are common elements of big parties. Help prepare your kids to say no and avoid the temptations to participate with these tips from LiveFree! Coalition.

1. Host the party at home.

Instead of having your teens go somewhere else for a New Year’s Eve party, consider opening up your home as the place for festivities. Contact the other parents to let them know what will be allowed and tolerated, and maybe even invite them to join the fun in this safe environment! Keep things exciting with party games, plenty of food and fireworks. You can even provide “mocktails,” which are festive non-alcoholic drinks that are little more exciting than the typical beverage. A Shirley Temple, sparkling fruit juices or a root beer float are all great, kid-friendly options.

2. Arrange a pick-up schedule.

If your kids are going out somewhere else to celebrate, have a plan to drop them off and pick them up at a safe location. In the plan, know where they are going, with whom they are going and if they are leaving to go somewhere new. Keep your cell phone on and nearby to be able to check in with them throughout the night. Stay in contact with their friends’ parents so that miscommunication doesn’t cause unsafe circumstances.

3. Lay the ground rules with an open, honest conversation.

Alcohol and substance abuse can be a difficult topic to talk about with your kids, but if they know the boundaries and agree to them in an open conversation, you both can be confident in their decisions when you’re not around. Tell your kids how you trust them to make wise choices, and why it’s important to know the consequences if they don’t. Establishing family rules and clearly communicating them to the kids prevents any confusion or arguments about what is tolerated and what is not. Having this talk before the partying and celebrating of New Year’s Eve will set up the night to be fun and safe for everyone.

4. Be careful with open flames.

Fireworks displays and playing with sparklers are some of the best traditions of New Year’s Eve, but with little ones running around and crowds of partygoers, they can also pose a real danger. It’s a good idea to have a bucket of water ready to put out old sparklers and a fire extinguisher on hand just in case of an accident. Teach the younger kids how to properly hold a sparkler at the right end to prevent burns, but also have a first aid kit with bandages and aloe ready to treat any injuries.  Clear the area for fireworks of any debris that could cause trips or falls, and allow kids to light the fireworks only if they are old enough and have proper supervision.

5. Stick together.

When celebrating the end of the year out on the town or in public where there are large crowds of people, make sure to stick together in a group. Remember, there is safety in numbers. It’s easy for little kids and big kids alike to get lost in the throngs and noise of celebrators. In the event that someone does get separated from the group, be sure to have a designated meet-up spot before the event. Wear distinctive colors that are easy to spot in a crowd of people. Decide ahead of time which attractions you’ll be attending, and do a head-count each time the group moves on.

New Year’s Eve should be a time of happiness, excitement and celebration. Don’t let the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse, large crowds or fire that are associated with the last holiday of the year cause problems for your family’s celebrations.

For more advice on substance abuse prevention and community involvement, check out LiveFree! online at www.pinellascoaltion.com or find us on Facebook.

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