Dear Be the Influence Senior Parents,
Congratulations on your graduate! High School graduation is a time for adults and teens to celebrate what is a significant milestone. Here are some extra tips to make sure those celebrations are safe as well as pointers on how to talk with your teens and guidance on hosting and attending parties.
ADVICE ON GRADUATION
Seniors have worked hard to graduate and prepare for life beyond high school. Most feel graduation is a time to cut loose. It is a night that 12th grade students look forward to all year. They often view graduation and summer as a time to party and enjoy life with friends before getting back into the business of academics or work in the Fall when their friends will scatter in different directions.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this attitude as it is well deserved. If alcohol or other drugs are involved, however, that is another matter. Graduation nights across the country see an increase in the number of alcohol and drug related incidents. A diploma in hand may make new high school grads feel like they're full-fledged adults and they should not have to follow the typical rules on grad night.
Some parents reason that their graduates are 18 years old and are going to be on their own in a few months. Some actually want their teen to have experience with substances before they go off to attend college, do a gap year, work or travel. Thus, the temptation for these parents may be to allow graduates to consume alcohol or marijuana, figuring both will be prevalent in college and elsewhere.
Keep any parties that you host substance free. While its certainly time to loosen the reigns, especially if your child has earned your trust, it is still ill-advised for parents to provide substances to 18-year olds or look the other way. This is not only illegal but it also can result in liability under social host ordinances and other laws such as contributing to the negligence of a minor. It is especially irresponsible and inconsiderate to allow substance use by teens who are not your own if their parents
are unaware. Accordingly, it is important not to host teen parties with alcohol, marijuana, vaping or other drug use. For specific laws in your area, view Legal Consequences on our website.
One more thing - parents may want to consider keeping parties substance free for adults as well. It is invaluable to model celebrating and having fun without alcohol, marijuana or other substances.
What Else Can Parents Do?
Have that conversation again! Before your high school seniors head off to their parities, take the time to talk with them about the risks of alcohol, marijuana and other drugs. It may just save a life. Lay down the rules that will help them create everlasting memories. Although you may feel you've talked to your child a hundred times about your expectations for healthy choices and the consequences of breaking your rules, graduation and summer is still an important time to repeat this message. Tell your graduate to play it safe and party right because a well deserved celebration shouldn't end in tragedy.
For specific guidance on timing, conditions, approaches, conversation starters, language to use, do's and don'ts and other tips, visit our most recent Blog (June 1, 2018 Newsletter) on our website.
Conversations over the summer before your graduate leaves home can be especially poignant. An excellent and humorous book on talking to your teen is "I'd Listen to My Parents if They'd Just Shut Up: What to Say and Not Say when Parenting Teens" by Anthony E. Wolf. Another excellent book which should be required reading for senior parents is by Laura Kastner called "The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting fro Senior Year to College Life."
Encourage attendance at alcohol and drug free events. Some high schools offer all night substance free events to provide a safe and sober place for graduates to celebrate. "Project Graduation" is a nationwide effort and "Safe and Sober Nights" are common. These typically start late and end in the wee hours of the morning. Students are enticed to stay through the night with games and prizes. Teens often stay out after the event is over to watch the sunrise and go out to breakfast.
Avoid risky driving. Explain to your teen that driving tired is just as bad as driving under the
influence. Consider using a ride service such as Uber, Lyft, or a taxi. Remind them they can always get a safe ride home, no questions asked from you.
Stay in contact with your teen. Doing so will give parents the opportunity to help out quickly if needed and will give your teen permission to blame you while offering an easy excuse to leave a risky situation.
Explain the legal consequences to your teen. Turning 18 means that your teen can be charged legally as an adult. They will not have the protection of a juvenile court and laws. An 18-year old could wind up in jail for something that, at a younger age, might have resulted in no more than a stern lecture and a ride home in a police car. Moreover, privacy rules for minors no longer apply and your child can be identified in the press by name. For specific laws in your area, view Legal Consequences on this website.
Taking a "Safety" Approach. At some point, prevention efforts by necessity may turn to reality based safety (also known as "harm reduction") efforts - especially for older teens with more autonomy who are using substances or are unwilling (or unable) to stop. This is an approach that focuses on reducing risks and preventing adverse consequences or harms rather than usage. An example is encouraging your child to call you if they ever need a safe ride home, no consequences or questions asked.
A list of talking points using this approach is referenced in our June 1 Newsletter on our Blog. Even under this approach, however, parents can still state their expectations of non-use and enforce rules that are broken with consequences.
Talk alone is not enough. Finally, remember that while parent-child conversations about substance use are essential, you also need to take concrete action to reduce access to substances. Continue to use the BTI Parent Lists to reach out to other parents to monitor your teen and ensure there is adult supervision without teen use of substances.
Tips on Hosting and Attending Parties
Visit our Blog to view our June 1, 2018 Newsletter with specific tips on hosting and attending
parties. For an additional list of tips on hosting parties, read "Where's the Party" by Jonathan Scott and Kelly Townsend. This book is the ultimate guide to teen parties. It also includes an excellent discussion of consequences, peer pressure and the teen brain.
Keep the graduation parties local. Don't be tempted to allow your graduates to celebrate at far away locations such as the beach or a cabin without adults being present. Allowing a teen to take off to a remote spot with no supervision creates unnecessary risk.
Trust your instincts. Finally, don't be concerned about what the other parents may be doing. Band together with like-minded parents to form a game plan. That's what Be the Influence is for!
Have a wonderful Graduation Celebration and a Safe Summer!
—The Be the Influence Committee