Parents often look the other way when it comes to teen drinking, particularly during graduation season when their children celebrate a most special moment in their lives.
It is not unusual for well-meaning parents to provide alcohol to their teen's friends at house parties and take away their car keys in an effort to keep them "safe" from drinking and driving.
Parents often cite two misguided reasons for hosting teen parties where alcohol is served. First, they believe it is "safer" for kids to drink at home and secondly, some parents think that hosting teen parties makes them appear to be a "cool" parent.
When parents serve alcohol to teens in their home, in reality what they are doing is facilitating their kids' comfort with alcohol. This practice sends a mixed message. Teens believe "if it’s OK to drink at home, it's OK to drink". Parents may think it is "cool" to allow kids to drink at a young age.
The reality is that the consequences can be overwhelming and in extreme cases fatal. Adolescents who drink heavily assume the same long term health risks as adults who drink heavily.
Parents planning to host parties for their teens during graduation season should think twice before serving alcohol. Hosting a party for teenagers with alcohol can be costly. It is unsafe, unhealthy and illegal for anyone under age 21 to drink alcohol.
Here are the facts:
Parents who give alcohol to their children's friends under any circumstances, even in their own homes, are breaking the law, even if they have their child's friend's parents' permission.
Parents who knowingly allow a person under 21 to remain in their home or on their property while consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages can be prosecuted and everything associated with such a violation can be confiscated as evidence…including personal property.
Parents can be sued civilly if they give alcohol to anyone under 21 and they in turn hurt someone, hurt themselves, or damage property.
The Grafton Police Department wants to stress to parents that hosting teen drinking parties should not be regarded as a “rite of passage" but as a health and safety problem with legal ramifications. When celebrating special moments such as graduation, parents can do their part to protect themselves and their children.
The Grafton Police Department offers these suggestions to avoid the potential tragedies associated with teen drinking:
- Don't be a party to teenage drinking. Always discourage your teens from drinking and inform them as to what the punishment will be if they are caught.
- Refuse to supply alcohol to children in your home or on your property.
- Be at home when your teenager has a party.
- Make sure your teenager's friends do not bring alcohol into your home.
- Talk to other parents about providing alcohol-free beverages at youth events.
- Provide teenagers with opportunities for alcohol-free events and activities.
- Please report underage drinking to the Grafton Police Department.
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Road, Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr. is Grafton's Chief of Police.