Prom Season

Underage drinking is an issue all parents will have to face. Often it is faced with no thought out strategy. Parents who are expert at finding the rightr play group and. as the child grows. the right school. courses and teachers for those courses. have a blank spot when it comes to their kids drinking. Prom and graduation season is a good example. Some parents scoff at the idea of high school students not drinking. Their motto seems to be "Drink as much as you like but don't drive.". Other parents don't want to take a stand or are afraid their kid will be unpopular.

Recently students from a private school held an after prom party which serves as a good example. A parent's lake front home was used for a coed party and sleepover. The 60 or so kids who attended ranged in age from 15 to 19. In addition to typical party food, they also had several kegs of beer. This does not include any alcohol or marijuana kids may have brought in on their own. To top off the gala event, the parents served breakfast. It just wouldn't do to send the kids home on an empty stomach.

What strategy did these parents have? They probably assumed that the kids were going to drink anyway so they wanted to make them comfortable. There was enough beer for each person to get drunk several times over. Perhaps the parents wanted to provide a safe place for their children to get intoxicated. I wonder if they gave any thought to whether it is ever safe for a 15 year old to get drunk. I would be interested to hear their explanation why laws regarding serving to minors don't apply to them. Would they feel comfortable presenting their plans at a PTO meeting?

Part of me feels for the dilemma of the parets who allowed their kids to attend. If this hasn't been the topic of conversation for years, with a clear and consistent message. the deck was stacked against them. The "everyone is going to be there" wail is pretty powerful. "Only dorks will be at the school after prom party" is one of the more subtle persuaders parents will be presented with. Parents don't have it easy. They have to confront a barrage of alcohol marketing, a and attitudes that equate drinking with adulthood, sophistacation and the good life. Even so, their biggest obstacles are silence and lack of planning.

One parent calls her friend and says: "I heard about this party. I'm not going t let my daughter go. Are you going to let yours?". That's the first step. Soon other parents plan to open their houses to their kids' friends with no drinking allowed. Once parents are clear and committed to a goal the strategy follows. Problems arise when the parents' ambivalence takes priority over a child's safety.

The facts are clear. The earlier drinking begins the higher the risk of alcoholism developing. Non drinkers attending parties where underage drinking is allowed are at higher risk for both assault and sexual assault. Perhaps parents at the grass roots level can begin the discussion and planning themselves. I bet more than we know are yearning to talk, make connections and develop plans.