Saturday, February 04, 2006

Garden City (NY) Finds a Safe Way To Go To The Prom: Now It Is Up To Us Parents To Do Our Jobs.

There has been a move to do away with prom on Long Island. I have felt that this effort is misguided and mostly lead by adults without a vision or a remembrance of the importance of that nights significance as a right of passage. I am glad to see that in Garden City NY the whole community has come together to address the issues that have made proms unsafe. They acted together to do something to keep the tradition alive for those that deserve to enjoy this special night.

As a lawyer who deals with the aftermath of teenage drinking and drugging, I have a special interest in making sure that kids do not drive while intoxicated. While it is my job to help them after they are arrested, my real goal is to help them not do things that might get them arrested in the first place. I always thought that having kids arrive in Limos at the Prom would keep teenage drunk driving to a minimum. After hearing a number of horror stories: Drinking in the limo and with limo drivers; Drivers demanding more cash or leaving them stranded; Some of the dolts among the drivers providing more than just drinks but drugs as well; I have come to the decision that Limos are a big part of the problem. I would rather chauffeur my son myself.

I think that Garden City has taken a mature and balanced view toward the prom at least from the point of teenage drinking and drugging. Parents must however play a bigger part. In my neighborhood, parents seem to have a very difficult time saying "NO!" They turn a blind eye to the drinking, drugging and pressure for sex that the prom brings. They rent homes on the east end of the Island or on the beach, or in the City. I am sure that I will be pressured to allow my son to go to the Hamptons and /or stay overnight with his friends and their dates in NYC. I do not think that he will be doing that. I will do my best to keep the prom a fun and safe event by providing a supervised and temperate night.

Prom time however is not the time to start training a child as to how to behave. There are plenty of parties and opportunities to get into trouble way before the prom. The truth is, parents need to be available and open to being the NO guy for a long time. Parents cannot be asleep when teens come home. If you can't stay up, shorten the curfew. No it is not unfair. Teens need to know that they must face you when they come in. It is not a violation of their constitutional rights if they must tell you where they have been, and what they have done. And yes you should be looking for telltale signs of drug and alcohol abuse. Slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and an unsteady gait. Are they making sense when they speak? Do they smell of alcohol or marijuana?

Before teens go out, do you ask where they are going? Who they are going with? How you can reach them? Hanging out in a parking lot or at Mickey D's is not acceptable. No place to go means you may have to host. Will other parents be home when a party is going on? Do you check with the parent? Afraid to embarrass your kid? GET OVER IT. Take it from a criminal lawyer. It is better to know before hand than have to ask after something terrible has happened.

Do you know how much money they have to spend? Where are the new clothes coming from? Demand to see receipts. How are they paying for the gas that they use? You must know.

Teenagers have civil rights as to the state and federal government. In your home Parents, you are in charge. I don't care what Dear Abby or Ann Landers had to say. Check up, snoop, follow, and cross examine. It is your job. If they don't know where and when you will show up, they will be very unlikely to be in places they don't want you to find them in.

The saddest part of my job has always been looking otherwise good parents in the eye and trying give them an answer to the question "Where did we go wrong?" SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!!The rest of it will then fall into place. The kid who knows his manners, who is in a strong family relationship, who has a schedule and is expected to keep up with it, is very unlikely to stray. I encourage my children to question every authority except one, mine. Why, because my covenant with them is different than the governments. I have promised to provide for them and to care for them and to keep them safe from as much as I can. I do not need a nanny state to do that. That is my job. If you want to keep government out of your home and out of your kid's life, then it is up to you to be in your kid's life as much as possible. Not as much as you can...As much as is possible. There's a difference.

My oldest son gave me a gift on Friday night. I have waited for Eighteen years to hear it. He told me that looking back on how he was raised, he often bristled under the amount of intrusion and the rules my wife and I put on him. Now in hindsight, he realizes that what we did was not only right, but has helped prepare him for what he faced in High School and what he faces in college. Salvatore is a very talented musician. He has performed music all over our state and county. He plays in a few jazz bands and school bands as well. His words this weekend however were the sweetest music he ever gave me. My job with him is far from over, but at least for right now, it seems to be right on track.

By the way, If you are having a problem with your teen, please feel free to contact your school counselor and local bar association for help. If that doesn't work call That Lawyer Dude or send me an e-mail by clicking on the contact button at and I will personally see to it that we get you a contact person, counselor or lawyer that can help, no matter where in the USA you live. Parenting is not easy work, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Good luck.
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