MADD Pennsylvania: Power of Parents: PowerTalk 21
By Steven Hoffman
By Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry
As the school year winds down, many of us are looking ahead to a variety of annual celebrations – from prom to graduation festivities to summer fun and so much more. What can – and should – be joyous festivities for children and parents alike can inexplicably turn to heartbreak if we don’t take the necessary precautions to prevent the unthinkable from happening.
Each year, we see the headlines and news reports about teens with bright futures who are seriously injured or killed due to an alcohol-related accident. We all hope and pray it doesn’t happen to our kids or their friends. The unfortunate reality is that underage drinking is an epidemic in our country. Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year, more than all other illegal drugs combined.
It is vital that we help our children and community at large understand the dangers of underage drinking, and the sooner, the better. Children start weighing the pros and cons of underage drinking as early as age 8, as second and third graders in elementary school. One in four middle school students have tried alcohol by the end of 8th grade. Children’s perceptions about alcohol continue to evolve through the age of 21.
The good news is that parents – not peers – are still the number one influence on their children’s decisions about drinking. Teens are 80 percent less likely to drink if parents deliver a clear “no alcohol before 21” message.
As mayor of Oxford, I am proclaiming April 21 to be PowerTalk 21 Day in our town, the official day for parents to talk with their kids about alcohol. This is not simply a one-day conversation, however. It is up to everyone in Oxford to put an end to underage drinking and its often deadly consequences. And the only way we can do that is if we start talking early, and talk often, with our children about this topic. It’s an ongoing conversation that can – and will – save lives.
That’s why I am joining with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and Nationwide to participate in the first-ever Power of Parents Mayors Challenge. From now through April 21, I urge all area parents to download the free Power of Parents Handbook and start talking with their children about alcohol. I also challenge my fellow mayors across Pennsylvania and elsewhere to join in the effort to prevent underage drinking.
This year, MADD expanded the Power of Parents program to include a handbook for parents of middle school students, with the tools they need to talk early and often with their children about alcohol. It builds on MADD’s original Power of Parents handbook, which was developed for parents of high school students. Both are fantastic resources to use as children mature and encounter new situations and pressures to drink.
We can stop this dangerous – and often deadly – behavior. We can make underage drinking prevention a community-wide priority for Oxford. Together, we can make a difference and save lives.