6 Points to Consider About Teens and Drinking
Photo Credit: Owen Franken/CORBIS
The teen party season is in full swing with graduations, proms, end of school year parties and the upcoming July 4th festivities. It can be a worry for parents, especially if they think that alcohol may be involved in these festivities. Lots of parents think that the best way around this situation is to let their kids have a party at home where they can drink all they want without "getting into trouble". I say, by all means, have the party at your house, it's a good idea. Then you know where your child is, you know who their friends are and you know exactly what they are doing. But leave the alcohol out of it.
1. You Are Their Parent, Not Their Friend
Parents are there to guide and instruct, not to be cool. I have known parents who are so anxious to look cool to their teenage kids and their friends that they will let them get away with pretty much anything. Smoking a joint or sharing a drink with the kids (or just letting them do it in your house) doesn't make you cool, it makes you foolish. There is plenty of time for friendship later, when your kids are adults.
2. Sending a Coherent Message is Important
Telling your kid that "you shouldn't drink underage, but hey, I know know you will, so you can do it here to keep you safe" is sending the worst of mixed messages. All children want and need guidelines, no matter what their age. Those guidelines should be fair and most important of all, consistent. It's okay to say that drinking is not an option, anywhere. Allowing them to drink at home after telling them not to drink is just plain confusing.
3. It's Illegal to Drink Underage
We all have to follow rules, it's how society works, it's how families work. Where I live, it's illegal to buy alcohol for minors, or to serve it to them. In fact, if you allow underage teens to drink in your home and something happens to them as a result, even after they have left your home, you are legally liable. Driving after drinking, falling down someplace, choking on their vomit. Do you really want that on your conscience?
4. There is More Fun to be Had Than From a Bottle
My daughter is a big party girl. She loves entertaining and has been having friends over since she was old enough to invite them, but until she was 19 (which is the legal drinking age in Ontario) those parties didn't involve alcohol. They played games, they watched movies, they listened to music, they talked and laughed and had a great time. Sometimes they would go on picnics, or go bowling or go to the local park to watch the minor league baseball. They didn't drink because they could have fun without it.
5. Getting Wasted Isn't Actually Fun For Anyone
I had a neighbour who subscribed to the let them drink at home theory and it wasn't long before her house was party central. During the summer, there was a party every Friday or Saturday night, often involving the police. It became a rather large issue with the rest of the neighbours, because it made everyone uncomfortable and unhappy, but this neighbour seemed blissfully unaware of the havoc these parties caused for others. I didn't have to hear the noisy, drunken revelling because we were always at the cottage, but I can tell you that it's deeply unpleasant to come home every week to a garden filled with beer cans and two day old vomit.
6. Things Can Get Out of Control Very Quickly
As long as there have been parties there have been crashers and with Facebook and Twitter, you can have hundreds of kids swarming your house in no time at all. I know someone whose house was swarmed and it is shocking. In the time it took for the police to arrive, about 200 kids had moved through their house like locusts, taking all of their cds, dvds, the sound system, the tv, art off of the wall, jewellery, their wine collection, really, just about anything easy to hand. Oh yeah, they also took all of the alcohol that the invited guests were drinking.
I don't have my head in the sand here, sometimes kids get into trouble. However, as parents it's up to us to lead our kids out of trouble rather than pointing them in it's direction. When my kids were teens they knew that my husband and I were only a phone call away, and that if they needed us to go get them we would, no questions asked. They knew that if they had a beer or two when they were 16 or 17 I'd talk to them about it without a lot of drama, but I wouldn't condone it. They also knew that for me, the one thing they were absolutely never allowed to do was get into a car with someone who had been drinking.
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