Summer -- Time for Celebrating and Fun!

This article was written by Joan Janusz, a member of the Northfield Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use.  


Keeping Youth Safe

June at last!  A new burst of energy and time to “let go”, a time of endings and beginnings: Ending of the school year and the beginning of summer.  For our graduates and their families, it is a time of celebration of an important milestone.  As is tradition, a letter recently was sent to the parents and guardians of all graduating seniors in Northfield from Monte Nelson, Chief of Police and Chris Richardson, Superintendent of Public Schools. 

This letter is congratulatory while also reminding families to have a safe celebration. Families are encouraged to refrain from making alcohol accessible to youth in their homes thus preventing any likelihood of illegal consumption by youth under the age of 21.  It also abides by the social host ordinances of Northfield, Faribault, and Rice County.  These ordinances make it a crime to knowingly provide a place where underage drinking of alcohol occurs.  Violating these ordinances incur penalties of up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1, 000 fine.   

The letter goes on to say that it’s easy to convince ourselves that we can’t stop youth from drinking-so we may try to make sure they drink safely.  However, youth using alcohol are often binge drinking in dangerous ways.  This puts them at risk of alcohol poisoning and also may allow other risk taking behaviors in regard to sex, driving or riding in a vehicle without a seatbelt or with someone who is under the influence.   

This is not only good advice for graduation and graduates, but holds true all year for all youth.  Adults have a responsibility to be good role models for our youth, to keep them safe, and help them make good choices. 

Parents and caregivers need to be proactive in these coming summer months and keep lines of communication open.  Although youth don’t admit it, they actually welcome structure and “rules”.  It gives them a sense of security knowing the adults in their lives care.  Some members of our Mayor’s Task Force met recently with RALIE at the Senior High.  A message that was given by one of the youth groups was that while they don’t want parents hovering over them, they appreciate parental involvement and believe that has had an impact on them making good choices. 

During these coming summer months, parents have a key role to play.  While having time to relax and have fun is good, too much unstructured time can lead to boredom and trouble.  Clear rules and expectations are needed for all youth; the rules will be different, of course, depending on the age of your teen.   Adults need to know each day your teen will be, with whom etc. and have planned “check-ins”.  Unmonitored teens are four times more likely to engage in drug use or other risky behaviors. 

Parenting doesn’t go on vacation!  but with good communication and sound advice and judgment, summer will be a safe, happy time for both parents and youth, whether graduating or otherwise.