With final exams behind them and after spending extended amounts of “family time” during the holidays, teens will be itching to go out! A little extra parental vigilance will go a long way – as well saying “no” to situations about which you don’t feel comfortable.
Principals from our high schools have emailed parents in the past about holiday celebrations, given Marin’s high rates of binge drinking by both teens and adults. Redwood's Principal’s letter and Marin Catholic’s letter.
“Just Say No” to Party Buses. Party Buses are especially popular on New Year’s Eve. They can be even more conducive to binge drinking other drug use and risky behavior than unsupervised parties. Although several deaths led to legislation in California regulating party buses effective in 2013, such as including chaperones at least 25 years old, some bus drivers ignore these requirements and unfortunate incidents continue to occur.
Two summers ago, police intercepted a typical party bus in Marin loaded with young teens and copious “jaw dropping” amounts of hard alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. This party bus incident was not an isolated one but rather was typical. Alcohol and other drugs are smuggled into party buses as wrapped gifts, water bottles, plastic flasks attached to underwear or concealed under clothing and in backpacks and purses.
Be Wary of Large Parties, Parties with Older Teens and Sleepovers. Freshmen parents in particular should say “not yet” to large parties. For sleepovers, use the BTI Parent List to reach out to other parents! And continue to use the BTI Parent List for parties attended by older teens, even if you have lost control over where they go once they drive. An excellent read is “Where’s The Party?” by Jonathan Scott and Kelly Townsend, which has practical tips for what to do when your teen goes to a party and how to host one.
Set a Reasonable Curfew and Check-Ins. Establish clear rules for the evening in advance, including check-ins, especially if a party or a sleepover is part of the plan. Also know what your teen is doing during the day, as many parents will be working outside of the home. Be sure an adult is present and supervising.
Don’t Place Absolute Trust in Designated Drivers! California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) results from 2015-16 show that too many so-called designated drivers are simply less drunk or high than their passengers. In Marin County, 31% of 11th graders admitted to either driving in a car when they had been drinking or being a passenger in a car with a driver who had been drinking.
Say “Not Yet” or Keep Track of Uber rides. Using Uber has become increasingly popular with adults and teens alike. While certainly safer than driving drunk or drugged, Uber rides enable extreme levels of drinking and other drug use. Uber drives also enable teens to go wherever they want (such as to large parties or clubs in the city) before they are able to drive. Accordingly, don’t allow Uber rides for younger teens without drivers licenses whenever you can be driving them – even if using Uber is more convenient. For older teens, keep track of how frequently your teen is using Uber. If its frequent, alarm bells should be ringing.
Check for Hidden Stashes and Fake IDs. Periodically check for hidden alcohol a well as “fake id’s”, all of which can be found in bedrooms, cars and wallets. Fake Ids are easy to obtain online and usually come in pairs. If you find one and destroy it, chances are a second one is around.
“Teen Proof” Your Home. Reduce easy access to alcohol by locking up, otherwise securing or keeping track of any alcohol.
Be Mindful about Your Own Use. Model responsibility and moderation in your own behavior. Consider limiting your alcohol intake when around your teens and younger children. A glass or two with a meal isn’t a parenting crime. Yet, when hosting or attending a child-related event, keep it alcohol free. Never drive while under the influence. Remember that while your teens may pretend not to hear you – they are listening and are watching your actions!
It is no surprise that our high rates of teen drinking – including binge drinking - mirror high rates in our adult use. Almost one in four adults report binge drinking in the last 30 days. According to a statewide annual survey, for five years in a row, Marin County ranks as the number one healthiest county among 56 counties indicators – with the exception of “excessive drinking” and deaths from drug overdoses. In those two categories, Marin ranked below most California counties. As an opinion piece in the Marin IJ entitled “Dear Marin: You’re Drunk” stated, “Marin likes to drink. A lot”.