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”.
In part 3, I shared some thoughts about what parents can do to make sure that we aren’t facilitating our kids’ ability to get their hands on alcohol.
Today, I share a few do’s and don’ts (or don’ts and do’s in this case) for parents of teens, plus the story of the alcohol-free teen party we had at our house.
DON’T say, “It’s better if they get drunk under my watch than who knows where.” Whether that’s your philosophy, or you simply turn a blind eye to underage drinking in your house, it’s unacceptable. How are you planning to explain to other parents why their kid was puking their guts out (or worse) after coming home from your house? And then, expect to find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit and to be in trouble with the police because it’s illegal!
DON’T say, “But we did all that stuff when we were kids.” That’s like when I used to say to my mom, “But Bobby did it first,” to which she would reply, “Would you jump off the roof if Bobby did if first?” Many more people used to drive drunk back in the day. Thank goodness that has changed. “But we used to do it” isn’t an allowable excuse for driving impaired, and it’s not an excuse for allowing your teens to drink underage.
DO call the “host” parents when your teen says they are going to a party. Thank them for having your child over, and ask if you can send them with some chips or other snacks. This will confirm that they know that a party is happening at their house (or that the party is news to them). Then, tell them that you appreciate them being home to chaperone all those kids. This will allow them to tell you if they are not planning to be home.
DO call parents who are housing your teen when you are going away. Hopefully they won’t say, “We’re going away too. I don’t know anything about your kid staying at my house.”
DO band together with other parents. PTOs should create a form for every parent to sign saying that they will not knowingly host parties with drinking, nor knowingly have an unsupervised party at their house. The list of those who have signed should be distributed. Collusion may be illegal in certain business situations, but parents are able to collude to protect their children.
Here’s something we did to have an alcohol-free party at our house…
At the end of the summer before our son Jeremy’s junior year in high school, he asked us if he could have a concert in our backyard. Jeremy is a drummer and his band had played many shows at various venues over the prior two years. We asked how many kids and he said it would be a similar number as attended their other concerts that we had been to, which seemed like a manageable number.
As the date approached, we realized there had been a miscommunication. We thought Jeremy’s band was going to be the only one playing. But, the shows we had been to were always comprised of a handful of bands and that’s what Jeremy had been planning. Suddenly the night wasn’t feeling very manageable. To make matters worse, two of the bands were from other high schools in nearby towns. That meant that kids from those towns would be coming as well. We talked with Jeremy about excluding the out-of-town bands, and other ideas which were unpalatable to him.
Then my wife had an idea. She suggested that I call a neighbor of ours who is a police officer to see if he would consider working our party as an off-duty assignment. He told me to call our town’s police department — that he was sure they would have an officer interested. And he was right. We quickly came to an agreement to hire (through the town, at overtime rates) an officer from 7pm-11pm.
The night of the concert/party, the officer parked in front of our house and stood at the foot of our driveway, in his uniform (he had asked us if we wanted him in uniform or not and we didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes”.) Many parents later told us that as they dropped off their kids, they were extremely happy to see the police presence.
The officer spoke with each kid before they entered our yard. He would say, “House rules: no alcohol, no smoking.” He would then look in their pocketbooks or other bags they might be carrying.
We had close to 200 kids come that night. And not one incident. We put out bowls of chips and pretzels, we served water in cups from giant plastic water containers so the small water bottles kids are known to illicitly fill would not be present, and we relaxed and enjoyed the evening.
The concert/party was fantastic. The bands loved having the venue to play and the kids who came loved watching the bands and got to enjoy a night that didn’t feature drinking. We did have to spend money to have the officer present, but the cost was a fraction of the value we got in return — the peace of mind that everything was under control. (If we had planned it in advance, perhaps other parents would have chipped in for the cost of the officer.)
As I’ve been saying throughout this series, I’m especially hopeful that readers will share suggestions on this extremely important subject. Already a few parents I’ve personally talked with in recent days gave me new ideas.
Please join the conversation. Share your comments and ideas…
p.s. Please send the link to this posts to others who can benefit from the message and contribute to the conversation. Thank you.