Teens have all sorts of reasons for why they choose to drink alcohol underage. Stress, rites of passage, peer pressure and curiosity are some of the top explanations they use. These reasons are echoed in homes across the country, regardless of their location. But, there is one reason for underage drinking that tends to pop up a lot more in rural areas. Teens across the countryside tend to think that there is just nothing else to do.
According to the Partnership for Drug Free kids, boredom is in the top eight reasons that teenagers say they drink. Many teens feel as though there is nothing better to do in their small-town communities than drink, hang out with friends and drive backroads.
This combination of activities is very dangerous. From January to June 2018, there has already been three times more car crashes in the rural parts of Missouri than there have been in the cities. Many of those have resulted in injuries and some even death, and a few have been due to underage drinking and driving.
So, what exactly can parents and teens in Missouri to make a change? One good place to start is to encourage your teen to stay busy. By encouraging them to invest in different and fun activities, you can help show them that there is a lot more to do in your rural community than they may have thought. Here’s a list of 15 things to get you started:
1. Go on a Walmart or Dollar Tree scavenger hunt. Make a list of items and the person who brings back the most items for the least amount of money is the winner.
2. Find a playground for a game of groundies. One person plays “Marco” everyone else is “Polo”, if you touch the ground you’re out.
3. Lay out under the stars and map out the constellations that are over your town each night. Keep track of their historical stories and watch them move across the sky.
4. Become a fan of pewee baseball, soccer and football. The kids will appreciate having fans in the stands and watching them run after each other is a blast.
5. Work to break a world record. Could your town be the home of the largest homemade pizza ever made?
6. Babysit for free. Get some friends together and find some parents that could use a break. Offer them a night off, and have a blast with their kids. Do the same when you see an elderly person mowing their lawn, offer to mow and give them a chance to relax.
7. Find the wackiest festival in your area and head out of town for the day. Ever been to Taste of SoMo? Or the Red White and Blue BBQ Blowout? How about the Twain on Main Festival?
8. Memorize an entire artist’s album with your friends. See who can sing each song from memory the best.
9. Have a ‘90s-2000s throwback party. Use Kool-Aid for a cool temporary hair dye, fold paper fortune tellers, pull out the Polaroid and start a game of M.A.S.H.
10. Movie marathon time. Have you ever actually watched The Lord of the Rings all the way through? Harry Potter? Stock up on popcorn and snacks too.
11. Go to the community pool and see who can make the biggest splash with their cannonball.
12. Hit up the local thrift for a shopping spree competition. Race your friends to find who can make the best outfit for the least amount of money.
13. Grab a new card game to try, may we suggest Dutch Blitz?
14. Have a homemade meal night. Put together a three-course dinner with your friends and make each dish from scratch.
15. Volunteer for the reading time at the local library and read to some younger kids in your town.
All of these activities are great things to encourage your teen to do when they find themselves bored with the extra time on their hands. Keeping teens active and invested in the community around them is a great way to keep them from being tempted to drink underage and drink and drive.
While all the activities found in this list are fun for your teen and their friends, the most important thing you can do as a parent is simply interact with them. By starting with these fun alternatives to underage drinking, you can engage your teen in priceless conversations. It’s these conversations that can truly make a difference when it comes to any teenager’s decision to drink underage. While activities are great, it’s your voice that will stick with them and help them lead a safe and sober life.