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It’s Party Time—Your Guide to Teen Parties

July 10, 2015  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

Summer is here and for many of us, especially teens, it’s time to visit with friends and family and enjoy a backyard BBQ or a party on the beach. Along with the warm weather and sand all over the house, summer brings an increase in teen alcohol and drug use. The following information is from a recent article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

As a parent, you know the importance of your teen's social life and that parties are a way to socialize and have fun. But an unsupervised or poorly planned party can result in unwanted or even tragic consequences. As a parent, you are the key to a fun and safe party.

Some Facts About Teen Parties

Guest List: When your teen plans a party, news can spread very quickly via texting and social networking sites such as Twitter. Because of these new media, your teen’s party can grow too large for you to control.

Time and Place: Teen parties often start late at night and sometimes move from house to house.

Alcohol and Drugs

Many teens expect alcohol and marijuana at parties. Some parents believe that it is better to allow teens to drink in their home so they can keep them safe. While this idea may be well intentioned, it is misguided. Parents cannot always keep impaired teens safe, and it’s against the law.

Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment. Teens are more likely to have unwanted sex, be involved in a violent incident, or suffer an injury after using drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, all too frequently, teens die from violence, unintentional injuries, or overdoses related to alcohol and other drugs. Binge drinking and other alcohol-related drinking games are especially dangerous.

Interestingly, compared with adults, teens are more likely to remain awake, to wander about, or to drive a car while having a much greater degree of mental impairment.

What You Need to Know

Communication and honesty are important to help keep your teen safe. Teens whose parents talk with them regularly about drugs and alcohol are 42% less likely to use substances than those whose parents don't. Let your teens know that you expect them not to use alcohol or other drugs at parties (or at any time, for that matter!).

One of the best prevention tools to combat underage drinking is parental networking. Get to know your teen's friends and their parents. If your kid is planning on going to a party, call the parents to ensure that they will be home and that they will not allow drugs or alcohol. 

You are legally responsible for anything that happens to a minor who has been served alcohol or other drugs in your home. If any of your teen’s friends bring alcohol or other drugs to your home, be prepared to contact their parents. And if someone comes to your home already intoxicated or high, make sure they get home safely. Help your teen feel responsible for this as well.

Parents Who Host, Lose the Most

The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. The penalty is a fine up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year or both.

According to the Massachusetts social host law, you may be criminally or civilly liable if:

  • You (or anyone else) provides alcohol to a minor at a party you or your teen organized.
  • Someone's property is damaged.
  • Someone is injured.
  • Someone leaves and gets into a car accident and/or injures someone else.
  • Someone dies.

If You Are Hosting a Teen Party...

Plan in Advance. Go over party plans with your teen. Encourage your teen to plan non-alcohol-related group activities or games.

Keep parties small. Ten to 15 teens for each adult. Make sure at least one adult is present at all times. Ask other parents to come over to help you if you need it.

Set a guest list. The party should be for invited guests only. No "crashers" allowed. This will help avoid the "open party" situation.

Set starting and ending times for the party and make sure everyone has a safe way to get home.

Set some party "rules" and your expectations. Discuss them with your teen before the party. For example, your “rules” could include the following:

  • No tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
  • Lights are left on at all times.
  • Certain rooms of the house are off-limits.

Have plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages available. Also, put your alcohol and any prescription or over-the-counter medicines in a locked cabinet.

Be there, but don’t intrude on your teen and her friends. Pick out a spot where you can see what is going on without being in the way. 

If Your Teen Is Going to a Party...

Know where your teen is going and how long he will be there. Have the phone number and address of the party. Ask your teen to call you if the location of the party changes. Be sure to let your teen know where you will be during the party if she needs some assistance.

Call the parent of the party host to make sure a responsible adult will be home the entire time and supervising the party. Make sure that tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs will not be allowed.

Talk with your teen beforehand about how to handle a situation where alcohol is available at a party.

Make sure your teen has a way to get to and from the party. Make it easy for your teen to leave a party by making it clear that he can call at any time for a ride home. Discuss why he might need to make such a call. Remind your teen NEVER to ride home with a driver who has been drinking or using other drugs.

Be up to greet your teen when she comes home. This can be a good way to check the time and talk about the evening.

If your teen is staying overnight at a friend's house after the party, verify this arrangement with the friend's parents and that they will be home.

Large Parties with Family and Friends

Many of us have lots of visitors during the summer and it’s not uncommon to have parties that include adults and teens. Be prepared to answer questions about why you can drink and your kids cannot. You can find some answers on the Partnership website: Answering Tough Questions About Alcohol.

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