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Graduation a time of hope and worry

Taken from:
Saanich News- June, 2004

Paul Beckow
Individual, Couple, and Family Counsellor

Dear Paul,

High school graduation time is here. And that means a lot of proud and perhaps nervous parents. Over the years, our community has experienced deaths in some deeply-tragic accidents with young people drinking and driving. This scares me. What’s a parent to do?

Diane C

Dear Diane,

Thanks for reminding us of the risk that exists in Saanich, or any community, during graduation time. We can’t forget the painful reminder of past tragedies. Graduation is a wonderful tradition and yet we may ask ourselves: what can we do to ensure our children are safe? I can point out some of the things parents can do.

To start with, begin by being aware of the risks and dangers - and be vigilant around them. Wherever possible, become involved in the celebrations and the activities your son or daughter is planning.

Many parents participate in the responsibility for the evening’s activities with the school and with other parents.

Don’t be afraid to talk with the parents of your son or daughter’s friends about the events being planned. As parents we are most effective when we are talking together and our children know we have a clear interest in their care and safety.

This shared commitment, attention, and message makes a difference.

Secondly, your sons or daughters growing independence over the last several years has required they face - and make - choices about many important issues in their life. The safety of all on graduation evening is such an event that requires awareness to make the right decisions. decision. It is one of the responsibilities that must be met. Life invites this.

So explore the layer of attitudes and beliefs regarding this responsibility with your son or daughter. Listen to them sort their way through the issue. Inquire. Ask questions in a relaxed way with curiosity.

Here are few general questions: What do they notice in regard to decisions kids make around alcohol? What have they sorted out for themselves,, so far, about alcohol and the risks?

And here are some specific queries: What arrangements are they making for safety throughout their grad evening? Do they know the laws and the policies of the school regarding alcohol? What kinds of decisions are kids arriving at to ensure a clean and a safe grad?

Feel free to express your own fears and concerns. You are their parent and it is your right and responsibility.

Do kids share the fear that on grad night some young people could get in a car when the driver has been drinking? Why do they suppose anyone would take such a risk? What allows this to happen? What do they think it really takes to say “no”, to do the right thing?

Listening to your children reflect on these kinds of open questions empowers them.
It creates the possibility of thoughtful, adult decision-making and the courage to take a stand in the matter.

Now Diane, more specifically to your question: what do you do if your son or daughter is hosting an event, a party or a gathering of friends? Set clear rules and understandings with them for the planned event ahead of time. Be sure to be present (supervise) with a low profile. Create agreement with your son or daughter that if anyone shows up having been drinking they will be required to pass in their keys.

Let this be clearly and simply understood. No one’s in trouble; it’s simply the right thing to do. If anyone is driving and they have been drinking, then they hand over their keys. This is how we are watching out for one another.

And if your son or daughter is going to a party, call the host parent. Ensure that this parent will be present. Have the address and phone number. Be available on your phone should they require you. Most of all, let them know that they can call – anytime - and that anyone – anyone at all – can request a ride home with no questions asked.

Graduation from high school is a wonderful achievement, a precious moment in our children’s lives, to celebrate together.

Your question, while perhaps an uncomfortable one, Diane, raises awareness for everyone’s safety during this special event. Let ALL our sons and daughters be safe this year. May Grad 2004 only produce proud, warm, and precious memories.

Paul Beckow is a trained individual, marriage, and family therapist with over 20 years experience. If you have a relationship and/or family concern, write to him c/o Victoria Family Institute, 4046 Century Rd., Victoria B.C., V8X 2E4, e-mail him at pbeckowLETSTALK@shaw.ca., or call 250 721 2477.

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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