In part 1 of this series, I told the story of coming home to stop a teen party — and highlighted the problem that ALL parents of teens face.
In part 2, I talked about strategies for making sure that when parents are away, teens can’t “play”.
Today, I share some thoughts about what parents can do to make sure that we aren’t facilitating our kids’ ability to get their hands on alcohol.
It’s nothing new that the easiest place for kids to get their hands on alcohol is from their parents’ liquor cabinet. I took a radical approach to prevent my kids from getting their hands on alcohol in my house — I got rid of it.
The two most common suggestions for keeping your kids away from your liquor supply are (1) keeping the liquor cabinet locked and (2) marking the levels on the bottles. Someone told me to turn the bottles upside down and mark the levels that way, so the kids don’t know that you’re marking the levels, but as I’ve said repeatedly in this series, my goal was not to catch the kids doing something wrong; my goal was to stop them from doing the wrong things in the first place. If I marked the bottles, I would tell the kids I had done that.
Of course, the kids might refill the bottle, particularly bottles of colorless liquor like vodka. I would tell them that I know about the re-fill trick, and not to try that. And as important, I would tell them to be sure that they tell their friends how crazy I am about this stuff, including that I check the alcohol regularly.
But, as I said, I didn’t do any of that. I took a more radical approach. I got rid of all the liquor in my house.
Now, I admit, it helped that my wife and I are not big drinkers. We do like to drink in the house at times. When we do, we buy the liquor we need, we drink it that night, and then we get rid of it. It costs a bit more that way — but that’s a small price to pay to know that kids are not getting their hands on liquor in our house.
As I say in my book, Life is Long, meaning we don’t have to rush to fit in everything today. In this case, what it means is that we can be a bit inconvenienced regarding our own alcohol consumption during this incredibly brief period in our lives when it’s our responsibility to keep our teens and their friends safe.
Getting rid of the alcohol in your house doesn’t mean your house is completely teenproofed. Your kids, or other teens, can bring alcohol into your house. I was told early in my kids’ teen years to watch out for kids bringing water bottles with them. Kids don’t have to bring their own water bottles to your house. You have water for them. And be vigilant about backpacks and pocketbooks.
One friend of mine (I’ll call him Jim) told me he walked in on kids drinking. Jim confiscated the alcohol and kicked himself for being so naïve about what the kids had in the backpacks they had brought into his house. “How could I have thought they were planning to study on a Saturday night?” he wondered out loud to me.
You also have to teenproof your house regarding prescription drugs. Some of us have had injuries or surgeries or other reasons to have used legally prescribed narcotics. When you are done using those drugs, dispose of them. Our daughters had a total of four surgeries where Percocet was prescribed. In each case, once we weaned them off the drugs, we immediately disposed of the remaining pills. If you don’t do that, teens can find and abuse those drugs — your kids and/or their friends. Don’t allow for the possibility of that happening.
Tomorrow I publish the final scheduled post in this series with a story about an alcohol-free party we had at our house, and more about what parents can do about the matters we’ve been discussing here.
Please join the conversation. I hope you’ll share your comments and ideas…