These factors may mean that your child is more exposed to substance abuse -- whether it's an uncle who drinks too much during your holiday dinner or a friend who offers your child pot at a New Year's Eve party.
The incidence of alcohol poisoning of children is common during the holiday season. So, during this time, it is especially important that parents keep their children safe and talk with them about staying away from drugs and alcohol. In order to safeguard your family:
* Let your child know what you expect. Tell your child that adults may be drinking during the holidays but under no circumstances is he or she allowed to drink alcohol.
* At your holiday gatherings, offer plenty of non-alcoholic foods, drinks, and activities.
* To lower the risk of alcohol poisoning, be sure to throw out partly empty alcoholic drinks. Children love to imitate adults, and if they have access to leftover drinks, they may taste the contents.
* Have a plan in place about what you and your family will do if you are at a party where there are people who have had too much to drink.
* Model responsible behavior by making sure
Why not create some substance-free holiday traditions for your family? It's a great way to show your child that you can have fun during the holidays without alcohol or drugs. Plan a non-alcoholic holiday party with your child so children learn that they can have fun without alcohol. Send out invitations with alcohol- and drug-free messages on them, and make sure the guests know that yours will be a substance-free event.
For your holiday meal, let your child help you prepare and serve traditional drinks without alcohol. You can make non-alcoholic cider, eggnog, or punch. Make sure your holiday festivities involve lots of delicious -- and non-alcoholic -- food, which your child can help you make.
If your older child is going to a holiday event, call ahead to make sure that the event will be alcohol and drug free. Check in with the party planners to see what measures are in place to keep alcohol out.
Explain to your potential gift-givers why you do not wish to receive holiday gifts of wine or other types of alcohol. This sets an example for your child. You are showing your child how to enjoy a safe, sober holiday season. The gift of an alcohol-free lifestyle lasts long after the holidays are over.
If you choose to host an event that will include alcohol, your most important job is to take steps to ensure your guests' safety both during and after the celebration. Drinking and driving is an all too familiar and tragic combination. Stop serving drinks at least one hour before the end of the event. Instead, serve coffee, non-alcoholic beverages, and desserts.
Should any of your guests be unable to drive due to alcohol impairment, be prepared to offer your guests alternate forms of transportation; know what "safe ride" programs are available in the area; keep the phone numbers of a cab company handy; or allow your guest to spend the night. If your event will be held in or close to a hotel, encourage guests ahead of time to book rooms for the night, call a taxi, or ask someone who was not drinking to drive your friend home. Don't let anyone who has been drinking drive. If the drinker insists, take the keys, ask for help from other guests, or temporarily disable the car. If all else fails, say you will call the police (and do so).
We are all responsible for our own actions, but when we host a party and choose to serve alcohol, we are also responsible for our guests' behavior. In next month's "Matters of Substance" column, we'll explore Vermont's "social host" laws in detail so that you can make informed decisions about alcohol use in your home and on your property.
"Matters of Substance" is a collaborative column of the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition , whose goal is to develop, implement and support a comprehensive community effort resulting in the prevention and reduction of alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse in the Windham Southeast area. For more information, visit www.brattleboroareapreventioncoalition.org or call 802-257-2175.