I recently flew to Texas for a speaking engagement. Sitting in my usual window seat waiting for the plane to depart, I happened to overhear the lady next to me on her cell phone, talking to her daughter. The focus of their conversation was the mother’s concern over her college-freshman daughter’s drinking habits, and it resembled a well-written Hollywood scriptfocused on the best way to speak with teenagers about alcohol.Not only had Mom said all the right things, but her tone was perfect. Considering my background in working to prevent underage drinking, I was thoroughly impressed. I thought about her, her daughter, and the work I am involved in the rest of that night and into the next day, causing me to veer off topic in my speech and mention the Way Out West Coalition and our work to reduce underage drinkingin Buckeye, Arizona. Doing so led, however, led to a very sad encounter.

After I finished speaking, a lady in the audience hugged me and thanked me for the work we doas a coalition. Then,with tears brimming in her eyes, she handed me a picture of her best friend’s son, Dalton.He too was a freshman in college, dropped off by his parents on his eighteenth birthday. Six days later, they received a call and returned to Lubbock, Texas, this time to identify their son’s body, lying cold in a morgue.

Dalton August Debrick. Dalton died less than a week after his 18th birthday from alcohol poisoning.

Hindsight helps us understand that things happen for a reason. Perhaps I sat next that mother on that plane for a reason, maybe I went off topic while speaking the following day for a reason, and maybe you’re reading these two stories today for a reason.

Wecannot always be around to make sure our children and teenagers make good decisions, but we can have a great impact on our teen’s behavior by speaking with them about the dangers of alcohol. Moreover, we can have an even greater impact if we speak with them often about the problems and dangers. A strong parental role model will repeat important information and beliefs multiple times because it keeps the conversation and expectations fresh in the minds of his or her children and youth. Yet, they do so without threats or scare tactics, which shut down conversation.

With that in mind, here are some ideas to help reduce the chances of underage drinking, without resorting to threats or scare tactics:


  • Find out what your teen knows and thinks about alcohol
  • Talk about situations in the news. (Sharing this article would be a good starting point, use it not as a scare tactic, but rather, as a way to get a conversation started.)
  • Discuss reasons not to drink. Role-play various situations and how to handle peer pressure. Have your teenact asthe peer and you act as your teen. This can actually be fun and you’ll also realize how hard it can be for your teen
  • Know your teen’s activities and get to know their friends
  • Have rules and consequences. You must follow-through!
  • Be the example you want to see
  • Be ready to discuss your own drinking

The Way Out West Coalition encourages you to make these ideas part of your parenting tool kit. And as with any difficult conversation, the key to success is preparation. For more information on how to talk to yourteen about alcohol or drugs use the resources listed below.

Author Larry Tracey, is Executive Director of Youth4Youth.org and a member of the Way out West Coalition, which is focused on creating a drug-free community in the greater Buckeye Valley. For more information visit: www.WOWcoalition.org

About the Way Out West (WOW) Coalition:

The Way Out West Coalition (WOW) was created in Buckeye by DrugFreeAZKids.org and Youth Evaluation and Treatment Centers (YETC) as part of the Community Alliance Program. WOW’s strength comes from the diversity of its members from all sectors of our community; business, healthcare, law enforcement, educators, parents, community members and community leaders.

This project is funded by Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care through an agreement with the Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services.

The WOW Coalition meets at noon the second Tuesday of every month at the Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce. For more information visit: www.wowcoalition.org

About DrugFreeAZKids.org:

DrugFreeAZKids.org – The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Arizona Affiliate is a 501(c) (3) non-profit statewide organization with a volunteer board of directors. Our mission is to prevent and reduce youth drug and alcohol use through community education and awareness by providing parents, caregivers, healthcare providers, educators and others with educational tools, information and resources.For more information visit: www.DrugFreeAZKids.org