Has your teen approached you about hosting a party over the holidays? This time of year is ideal for getting together and celebrating with friends, but drinking alcohol is never something that should be included in underage parties. According to a 2015 survey of high school-aged teens in the Roanoke Valley*:
- 61% reported they have drank alcohol.
- 36% reported they’d had at least 1 drink of alcohol in the past 30 days.
- 76% reported it would be very easy or fairly easy to get alcohol.
One way you can protect your teen from the dangers of underage drinking is to not provide them with alcohol. “Social hosting” is when adults knowingly or unknowingly provide alcohol to underage drinkers or ignore underage drinking on their property or property for which they are responsible. Providing alcohol to minors is against the law and sends the dangerous message that it is okay to break the law. When parents provide alcohol for their teens or don’t know if teens are drinking in their home, they place teens at risk for injury, unprotected sex, drug use, violence, sexual assault and other risky behaviors. It also opens a door to lifelong problems with alcohol, places teens at risk for alcohol poisoning and drunk driving and shows disrespect for other parents who do not want their teens to drink. When a parent allows drinking by minors in their home, they risk being held personally responsible if something goes wrong or anyone gets hurt.
Here are some tips from the Alcohol Education Trust for hosting a safe, alcohol-free holiday celebration for teens:
- Brainstorm ways to celebrate that don’t involve your home – going to the movies, bowling or shopping with friends.
- Agree on the list of who will be invited. If anyone has a reputation for drinking or trying to sneak alcohol into places, explain why you don’t want that person to be invited.
- Discuss with your teen how they will invite their friends – no open invitations on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. If this happens, you may wind up with unwelcome guests!
- Make sure that your teen understands and agrees to follow your house rules and let them have ownership of the party (with guidance from you as necessary). Explain that s/he can have more parties in the future, but only if the rules are followed this time. Here are some ideas for adding an extra element of fun to the party.
- Stay home and aware of what is going on during the party. Children behave differently if they know adults are around. Your teen might die of embarrassment if you are in the party area, so keep a reasonable distance from the action but let him/her know you’ll be on hand if something goes wrong.
- Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages. There are thousands of fun ideas on Pinterest!
- Be sure to have plenty of games and distractions on hand. Teenagers become bored easily, so it’s best to keep them occupied with healthy activities.
- Someone may try to sneak in alcohol in a water or soda bottle, so be prepared and work out how you will handle it. One thing to consider is asking guests to leave water bottles at home or checking their contents when they arrive.
- Be sure to let your neighbors know that you’ll be hosting a party and set a reasonable finish time that will allow parents to pick up their kids and/or teens to drive home safely at a reasonable hour.
- After the party, tell your teen you are proud of them and their friends!
*Valley-Wide 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey – Counties of Botetourt and Craig and Cities of Roanoke and Salem