What’s the right thing to do? Parents of teenagers sometimes think that if they allow their kids to try alcohol at home while they are around, it will keep them safe and teach them to drink responsibly. This subject has come up in the news lately as well as locally as the family with teenage boys up the street from us has been allowing huge weekend parties when they are home to chaperone. After weeks of putting up with it, a few neighbors finally went over to complain about the late night blaring music and noise and realized these are high school kids! The explanation provided by the parent answering the door was that they’d rather have them party at home then elsewhere without supervision. They were insuring the kid’s safety by taking away car keys and expected them to spend the night.
Were these parents being insensitive, irresponsible or dangerous? While these “cool” parents might have the best intentions, they also should know that are serious health and legal implications for both the parents and kids when underage minors drink alcohol. First of all, in terms of legality, these parents asked to please be good neighbors and not call the police. They would control the noise. What they didn’t expect was that one of the unhappy neighbors in the group is in the Sheriff’s department. He explained, that it’s illegal to supply anyone under the age of 21 with alcohol and can result in jail time, fines from $500 – $1,000, court fees, missed days at work and even probation for up to a year. There whole lives could turn upside down and also asked if the parent’s of the participating teens all knew what was going on at these “sleepovers”? If anything happened to any of these kids, they could be personally sued.
Despite these facts, adults providing alcohol to a minor happens all the time. Scrolling through online news reports from the past few months, there is a couple in New Jersey who are charged with endangering the welfare of a child and 6 counts of providing alcohol to minors in the form of Fireball whiskey and vodka. In Madison County, Wisconsin, a doctor and his wife were arrested for allowing teens to drink alcohol at their home. And, in Colorado a woman was arrested after a teen was found passed out in the street in front of her house. She said that she was concerned about him but that he had already been drinking before he arrived at her home and just went and helped himself to beer out of her refrigerator. This is just a snapshot.
Often times, the parent or adult in the situation, thinks that if the kids have the opportunity to drink at home, it will take away the intrigue or desire to try it elsewhere. The truth is that studies have found that the earlier the drinking starts, the higher the risk becomes for lifelong drinking problems. It’s up to parents to set the tone that underage drinking is not okay. The more permissive about alcohol use in the home, the more that teens and young adults believe it’s fine to drink elsewhere. The stigma is taken away and in the adolescent mind, they think underage alcohol consumption isn’t a problem. The reverse psychology doesn’t generally work.