Attend Your Teen's Holiday Parties

Written By: Rachel Strong
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Christmas and New Years are coming, and with them Christmas and New Years Eve parties. At many of these parties, alcohol flows freely. I don't know anyone who doesn't drive just a little more defensively on New Years Eve, or who avoid driving that night altogether. But what about the kids and teens who are at home during the party? Or what about your students' friends' parties?

Over 80% of adults say that underage drinking and driving is a problem. However, a new study shows that one in five parents think that providing alcohol and/or drugs to teens is okay, as long as the youth are supervised and stay put.

Other parents want to believe the best about their teen. Here are some statistics from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University:

80% of parents believe that neither alcohol nor marijuana is usually available at parties their teens attend. BUT 50% of teen partygoers attend parties where alcohol, drugs or both are available.

98% of parents say they are normally present during parties they allow their teens to have at home. BUT a third of teen partygoers report that parents are rarely or never present at the parties they attend.

99% of parents say they would not be willing to serve alcohol at their teen's party. BUT 28% of teen partygoers have been at parties at a home where parents were present and teens were drinking alcohol.

Only 12% of parents see drugs as their teen's greatest concern. BUT twice as many teens (27%) say drugs are their greatest concern.

One in three high school students (50% of 17-year-olds) surveyed report that they have attended parties where drugs and alcohol were provided and either the parents were there and didn't notice or the parents provided the drugs and alcohol for the party.

Throughout the country, providing alcohol to minors is against the law. The penalties vary throughout the country, and even from county to county, but do include fines and jail time as well as civil responsibility. If a high school student comes to a party at your house, and-known to you or not-is served alcohol and goes out and gets into an accident and destroys property or hurts somebody you are civilly liable and can be sued. Not to mention that drunk driving is now the #1 killer of teenagers!

But, you say, Billy would never do anything like that. He knows better! Sure, he's gone to parties like that at friends' houses, but he hasn't ever had anything to drink, and he certainly knows not to get behind the wheel!

Well, you're in the vast majority of parents. A phone survey of parents in the Washington, D.C, area showed that although 60% of parents believed their teen had been to parties where there was drinking, only 19% believed that their student had ever come home intoxicated. Parents were more likely to believe their teen's friends have driven drunk than believe their own teens drive intoxicated (37% to 10%).

Ironically, even the parents who provide alcohol to their youth still support harsher penalties for restaurants, bars, and adults who provide alcohol to youth and let them drive off.

So what happens when your high school senior asks to hold (or go to) a New Years Eve or Christmas party? Here are a few steps for not only the holiday season, but also throughout the year (including Prom and Graduation):

Never buy alcohol for your teen, their friends, or anyone under 21. Not only is it going to get them in trouble, it can get you in a lot of trouble. You are also teaching your child that some laws are to be followed and others are to be broken.

Do not allow your teen to have parties with alcohol on your property. If you know that alcohol will be served at a party your teen wants to attend, do not allow them to go.

Network with other parents, and let them know that you do not want alcohol available. Meet your child's friends' parents and make sure they know your views.

Tell your teen that it is against the family rules for them to drink alcohol.

Talk and listen to your children. Be straightforward and honest with them about the real impact of alcohol. Include civil as well as moral responsibilities. If you get sued, make sure you student knows that HE will be paying the settlement.

If you choose to use alcohol, use it responsibly. Remember, you are your children's role model.

Let law enforcement know about any establishments or people providing alcohol to anyone under 21 (including your teen's friends' parents!).

You may not be the "cool" parent when you do things like this, but be a responsible parent and not worrying about being cool. When your teen asks for a holiday party at your house, "crash" your teen's party every couple of hours just to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up. You may just save someone's life.

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