Safety Tips for Children and Young Adults
  Vijai P. Sharma, PH.D.

 Most teenagers manage to accomplish a lot in spite of the odds stacked against them.  They have quite a job to do.  They cope on a daily basis with peer pressure for drugs, unnatural thinness, premarital sex, and other adventures.  Maybe there is a bully that your child has to keep at bay all by himself or herself.  Maybe your child had a friend who broke his or her heart and left him or her in humiliation. Children are generally very resilient and resourceful, but must face many challenges during those tumultuous days of their development.

 A lot of children must cope with the trauma and hassles of parental divorce.  They are emotional blackmailed to take sides, compelled to adjust to often two inconsistent and conflicting homes, and expected to blend in with their blended family.  Then they come to school and the peer pressure is unleashed on them to adopt the values and behaviors that are in direct contrast with those of their family.  They ask themselves, "Do I let down my peers or let down my family?  How do I balance the two?  How can I be a good child to my parents and yet be accepted and even admired by my peers?"  Family and school life have never been so challenging.

 Teens also must encounter often senseless violence.  According to a 1995 report on the National Institute for Dispute Resolution, one-half of all violence occurs in school buildings, on school property, or on the street in the vicinity of the school.  Both students and teachers complain about a lack of civility, respect, and discipline in the schools.  The good news is that the fifteen to twenty ours of education in conflict resolution and introduction of peer mediation in students' conflicts has dramatically reduced the incidence of violence.  In the schools where the conflict resolution education and peer mediation was introduced, sixty to ninety percent of students reported reduction in conflicts and violence, increased in school discipline, and improvement in academic performance.  Just remember there is more than one solution to every problem.  You just have to make up your mind to find them.

 What about teen deaths due to erratic behavior?  statistics tell us that traffic crashes are the number one killer of young people accounting for thirty-five percent of deaths in ages 15 to 20.  Speeding is responsible for twenty-five percent of the traffic deaths in this age group.  Remember that vehicular speed is not your personal power, it is a machine power.  Don't confuse the two.  Actually, the test of your power is to keep it within the legal speed.  It is much more difficult to keep it within the legal speed limits than it is to let it fly.  Parents, remember your child has watched your driving habits for years before he or she sat in the driver's seat.  Be a model of safe driving for your child and apologize for the past indiscreet driving, if any.

 Alcohol often plays a major role in fatal car crashes for fifteen to twenty-year olds.  Drinking drivers under age twenty-one are involved in fatal crashes at more than twice the rate of drivers, twenty-one and over.  Note that the practice of using a designated driver has reduced the rate of drunken driving deaths on American roads by twenty-five percent. Have a non-drinking designated driver this season or, still better, volunteer to be one yourself for people you care about.

 How do you know that your designated driver didn't have a drink before giving you a ride?  Remember the case of Henri Paul in Princess Diane's crash?  Research tells us that last year almost one in two designated drivers have had one or more drinks before driving.  Some admitted to as many as four drinks.  Discuss these concerns before you settle for a designated driver.
 Do not driven when you are excessively tired, sleepless, angry or upset.  Calm yourself down.  Humor yourself up with an old joke.  Take deep breaths.  Walk or job a block or two before you sit at the wheel.  Wear seat belts.  Remember, bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones in Princess Diane's crash, the only survivor, and the only one who was wearing a seat belt.  When you wear seat belts, you dramatically reduce the chances of a serious head injury or death.

 Young adults and teenagers also face significant depression.  Some episodes of depression last, on average, nine months, which is equal to one whole school year.  Some remain depressed most of the time.  Seven to nine percent of students make a suicidal attempt.  Only one of the two depressed children gets help.  The good news is that eighty-five percent of children who get help get better in just a short time.  Tell someone about your mood, feelings or thoughts that are bothering you.  Get help.  Proper treatment of depression may once again restore grades, relationships, and above all, the joy of life.

 So, these are the three major risks to their life and well being that teenagers and young adults must face, namely, accidents, homicides and suicides.  We have discussed how to keep safe against the three risks.  Teenagers and young adults, when you take care of these three risks, you shall really become immortal and invincible.  Here are my two slogans for this season, "Volunteer to be a nondrinking designated driver."   And make sure that "everyone riding with you wear seat belts at all times during the ride."

Filename:  "Children,"  11/30/97 index:  depression, driving, conflict resolution. 

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