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Real adults don’t give kids alcohol

Adults giving teens alcohol aren't being cool, they're breaking the law

Posted: April 23, 2009 3:50 p.m.
Updated: April 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Joanne and Tony throw the best keg parties in town. The beer flows and a designated teen collects car keys at the door. Teens mill around, shouting over the pounding music, hugging and “high-fiving” Joanne and Tony. They are so popular, they could have been voted Prom King and Queen.

What’s wrong with this picture? Joanne and Tony graduated high school 25 years ago, and this is their son’s party. And the family is planning a few more beer bashes during the summer. Unfortunately, they think beer pong is a harmless party game — it’s not.
Some parents see drinking as a sign of adulthood. There is a belief that once someone has graduated, they are an adult — but if someone is under 21 drinking is illegal.

Some parents seek the approval of their teens and want to be heroes in the teen arena. I am astounded that they think that as long as they are serving the alcohol, they can control their kids and other kids’ actions.

Often times these parents think they should be nominated for Parents of the Year. They regard themselves as enlightened crusaders for their teens. They walk the teenage walk and talk the teenage talk. They’re so desperate to be considered cool by their kids that they believe the law doesn’t apply to them. They think they’re wiser and better than the parents who won’t provide alcohol.

When you add drinking to natural teenage curiosity and pleasure seeking, the results can range from lowered self-esteem of a girl who had sex with several guys at a party, throwing up all over someone’s carpet and saying something regrettable, to tragedies like driving into a brick wall, fighting and injuring or killing someone. These parents know that kids are going to drink but they’ve decided to be the responsible ones and supervise their drinking.

The mixed messages that parents send when they “bargain” with teens and allow them to drink at home may be to blame for excessive teen drinking. A study of 15,000 students by the Johnson Institute, which fights alcohol use at school and work, showed that permissiveness at home affects adolescent choices more than peer pressure. Many times this sends the message that fun revolves around a can of beer. A recent study reveals that 74 percent of 12th graders admitted drinking during the past year. But it comes as a shock to many parents that some parents feel they can be “buddies” with their teens if they let them drink.

It’s pathetic if parents rely on their teen’s definition of fun. Of course I liked to drink in high school and thought is was really cool when certain parents let us drink at their house.Your teen may whine, “You’re the only parent who won’t let their kids drink when they’re seniors.” Underage drinking is a factor in nearly half of all teen automobile crashes. It also contributes to suicides, homicides and fatal injuries, and is a factor in sexual assaults and date rapes.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving surveys estimate that when parents “bargain” with their kids and let them drink as long as they promise not to drive, teens are more likely to drive after drinking or be in a car with someone who is drinking.

Parent-sponsored drunkfests make it harder for the kids who don’t drink and parents who won’t let their kids drink. It’s almost an inherent challenge that these parents lay down by saying, “I’m sponsoring this because I think your teen is mature enough to drink responsibly.” A teen who doesn’t drink or whose parents say it’s wrong thinks, “What’s wrong with me? Am I the only one who feels this way?” There is a huge difference between kids experimenting with alcohol and kids drinking with adult approval.

Some parents feel like they would be ostracized if they said their kid couldn’t go to a prom or graduation party because there was drinking going on. The teen lament becomes, “Mom, you just don’t get it.” But I don’t understand how parents — even if they take away the car keys — can justify serving 16, 17 and 18 year olds beer and hard liquor. Kids make bad choices, but what can you do when parents facilitate those choices?

Some kids don’t want to drink. They want an out and their parents provide a good excuse. If kids say “Want some?” and they say,
“No, my parents will kill me,” most kids say, “OK, that’s cool, there’s more for me!” However, if parents are saying “Go ahead, it’s perfectly fine to drink,” then what out do they have?

Parents need to understand that too many drinks ingested either accidentally or intentionally can result in alcohol poisoning, which can often result in death.

Alcohol is a drug that numbs the brain. If too much is used, it paralyzes the nerve center in the brain and puts the brain to sleep.

When the brain slows down, so does the respiratory system, When the lungs and heart stop sending oxygen to the brain, breathing stops. Are you going to monitor every teen at your party to make sure there’s no binge drinking going on?”

The Center for Disease Control reports binge drinking is the highest in the 18- to 20–year-old group. About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 years in the United States is in the form of binge drinking and 32 percent of high schoolers are binge-drinkers.

Yet a poll conducted by the group Drug Strategies showed that only 3 percent of parents thought their teens had indulged in binge-drinking in the past month.

Some parents believe that teens are going to college in a few months and they’ll do what they want and they can’t be stopped, so why should I try now? They forget that 70 to 80 percent of first time sexual encounters occur when kids are under the influence.

They’re also less likely to use a condom, because their decision making is totally impaired. Just one night and they can carry away an infection that lasts a lifetime.

Adolescent males get a few drinks in them and soon they drop every barrier to civilized behavior. The more drinks they consume, the quicker they degenerate into base instincts. When parents provide the beer and hard liquor, and those hormones are running wild, they have only themselves to blame.

Making it “safe” for kids to drink is a complete contradiction of terms. There are laws regulating use by age because of the lack of physical maturity and psychological maturity. People under the age of 21 have dramatically impaired judgment.

I want to urged parents to rethink just what responsible drinking is for someone under the age of 18. Parents think they did it, so their kids can do it too. After all, parents don’t want to say what they did as teens was all wrong. Guess what; in this instance, it’s OK to be the hypocrite.

What do you do if you find out that your teen is going to a party where parents are serving alcohol? “You can say, ‘You can’t go’ or you can call the parents and remind them in a nonconfrontational way that neighbors often call the police and it’s embarrassing and legally costly to parents when they are arrested. When police come to break up a party, everyone is arrested, even those who are not drinking. Some parents even call the police and ask them to call the parents and remind them what the consequences could be.

If you can’t find the backbone to refuse to serve alcohol to your teenagers and their friends, then at least look at the legal ramifications. Maybe that will make you think again.

Parents are supposed to have arrived at maturity, while kids are supposed to be passing through adolescence on the way to adulthood. You can empathize, but you don’t have to join your teen. They need you to point them in the right direction and keep them safe. You’re supposed to give them wisdom, not a keg party in the backyard or garage.

Cary Quashen is a certified addiction specialist and the founder and president of ACTION Parent & Teen Support Programs and ACTION Family Counseling Centers. Quashen can be reached at (661) 713-3006. The ACTION Parent & Teen Support Group Meeting meets at Saugus High School, Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. in the Q building, 21900 Centurion Way in Saugus. The ACTION 24-hour hotline is 1-800-FOR-TEENS.


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