By Cary Quashen, CAS
Tony and Susan throw the best keg parties in town. The beer flows and a designated teen collects car keys at the door. Teenagers mill around, shouting over the pounding music, hugging and “high-fiving” Tony and Susan.
What’s wrong with this picture? Tony and Susan graduated high school 25 years ago, and this is their son’s party. The family is planning a few more beer bashes during the summer. Unfortunately, they think beer pong is a harmless party game. NOT!
Some parents see drinking as a sign of adulthood. There is a belief that once someone has graduated from high school, they are an adult. But they’re STILL under 21 years of age and drinking is illegal.
Some parents seek the approval of their teens, and want to be heroes in the teen arena. I am astounded parents think 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; they believe the law doesn’t apply to them. They think they’re wiser and better than the parents who won’t provide the alcohol.
When you add drinking to natural teenage curiosity and pleasure seeking, the results can range from the lowered self-esteem of a girl who had sex with several guys at a party 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 parents send when they “bargain” with teens and allow them to drink at home may be to blame for excessive teen drinking. Do you know that permissiveness at home affects adolescent choices more than peer pressure? Many times parents send the message that fun revolves around a can of beer. Many parents feel they are “buddies” with their teens when they allow them to 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 it was really cool when certain parents let us drink in their home. 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.
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 these parents lay down by saying, “I’m sponsoring this because I think your teen is mature enough to drink responsibly.”
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. But, I don’t understand how parents can justify serving 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds beer and hard liquor.
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.
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 urge parents to rethink just what “responsible drinking” is for someone under the age of 21. Parents think THEY did it, so their kids can do it too. After all, parents don’t want to say that the things they did as teens were wrong. Guess what, in this instance, it’s okay to be a hypocrite.
Teens 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 the garage.
Cary Quashen is an expert in the field of addiction treatment and recovery and is the founder and president of Action Family Counseling. He can be reached by calling (661) 297-8693.