By Kim Richardson, Woodbury PD

Who doesn’t love a Minnesota summer? One could head to the cabin, go camping at a state park, go swimming in one of our 10,000 lakes, have a bonfire or simply relax on a patio with a nice cold beverage. But what happens when that cold beverage contains alcohol and is being enjoyed by someone under 21 years old? In Minnesota it is unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 years old to consume alcohol (MN statute 169A.33).  Every year law enforcement sees an increase in drinking related calls among teenagers during the summer months. This trend occurs simply because they have more free time and less supervision. So what should parents do to help curb this increase?

  1. Have open communication with your teens

With busy summer days quickly approaching and school ending soon, take the opportunity now to spend time talking to your teen about the dangers of drinking. Especially talk to them about what can happen if they mix drinking and driving. Not only will teens lose their license if they are caught drinking and driving, if they are over the driving limit of 0.08 blood alcohol concentration they will be charged additionally with driving under the influence. On top of that it is an additional charging factor if they have minors in the vehicle with them as well.

  1. Set ground rules

One phrase my parents used often when I was a teenager was “I’m your parent. I’m here to keep you safe, not be your friend.” At the time of course I didn’t like hearing it and felt they were being unfair with having rules especially when many of my friends’ parents had none. As a parent now I understand they were just trying to guide and protect me when tough choices arose. I even use this phrase now when speaking with my own children in hopes they will understand some day too.  Rules will be different for each family but providing guidance and structure will help provide a safer summer for them.

  1. Don’t allow them to drink at home.

Despite the thought of “well if they drink with me at home they won’t need to drink with friends,” research shows that when parents allow their kids to drink at home, they are more likely to drink with their friends. Additionally, drinking at home at a young age can contribute to problems with alcohol in the future. Both the state, county and cities within Washington County have laws/policies against providing alcohol to minors.

Being a parent/guardian is not an easy task. Let’s all join in together to watch over our growing teenagers and make it a safe summer for them, which starts in the home with a simple conversation. For more information on teen drinking please visit www.dps.mn.gov and www.madd.com.