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Walk in Stride, Don't Provide


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Madison County - 

Keeping Teen Parties Safe

Being an adult and a parent means freedom from peer pressure, right?  Wrong!  When it comes to making decisions about teens and parties, we can often feel pressured, isolated, and confused. With summer in full swing many teens are looking for “something to do”.  That “something to do” often turns into either pressure to host a party at their own home or pressure to allow attendance a party elsewhere.  The thought of either leaves many parents with a nagging, uneasy, and worried feeling.

Contrary to popular thought, surveys show that most parents do not think it is ok to provide alcohol for those who are under the age of 21.  In fact, parents who choose to host an underage drinking party are setting themselves up for some major legal penalties and risks. The fine for providing alcohol to an individual who is under the age of 21 is $2,500 and up to a year in jail.  If a serious injury or death were to occur, the parent is subject to a Class 4 felony (up to three years in prison and fines up to $25,000).  There are other risks and consequences associated with underage alcohol use such as:  negative impacts on youth brain development, increased sexual activity, and violent or aggressive behavior.

The bottom line is teen parties can be safe and fun at the same time.  Here are some tips for hosting a teen party:

  • Be a part of the planning.  Have your teen create a guest list, only allowing a specific number of people.
  • Have your teen pass out invitations to avoid an “open party” situation
  • Do not allow your teen to email or text the invitation.  They can be forwarded to large numbers of people, causing you to quickly lose control of the situation.
  • Put your contact information on the invitation and welcome calls from parents.
  • Set clear rules ahead of time, such as NO alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
  • Set a start and end time for the party.
  • Let attendees know that if they leave, they are not allowed to come back.
  • Provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Limit the party to a certain area of your home or property.
  • Invite other parents to help chaperone the party, especially if there will be large amounts of teens.

Is your teen planning on attending a party?  Here are some simple tips to keep them safe and you worry free (well almost):

  • Know where your teen will be.  Call the parent to verify the location and to ensure there will be adult supervision.
  • Ask how many teens are expected to attend the party.  Offer to provide refreshments or help supervise.
  • Make certain that alcohol will NOT be allowed.  Ask how they plan to handle the situation if a teen shows up with alcohol or has been drinking.
  • Talk to your teen about your expectations, rules, and consequences.  Let the parent know if your teen leaves the party, you would like to be notified.
  • Set a curfew for your teen and have them check in with you when they arrive home.
  • Know how your teen is getting home from the party.  Clearly reinforce the message that they should never ride with anyone who has been drinking.
  • Assure your teen that they can contact you at any time if they want to be picked up for any reason.
  • If you have concerns or the activity seems inappropriate, express that to your teen and do not allow them to go. 

It may be hard to believe but… parents are the greatest influence in their teen’s lives!

What to know about brain development and alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use 

  • The front of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex (the part above the eyes) is responsible for slowing us down and stopping our impulsive behaviors.  It controls our higher level thinking and helps us to understand consequences.
  • The front part of the brain is still developing well into the mid 20’s.  This means that connections to the rest of the brain are still being made.  The teenage brain lacks some of the “wiring” or connections they need to stop them from making risky or impulsive decisions. 
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs are far too available to teens!  These drugs highjack the brain, and gives the user a fake sense of pleasure.  Drugs are very harmful to a still developing brain.  Drug use at a younger age rewires the brain and increases the chances for addiction. 
  • Alcohol use during teen years may damage memory, learning capabilities, decision making, and reasoning.  Drug use during times of critical brain development can cause permanent changes in the way the brain works and responds to rewards and consequences.