It’s an exciting time for the Class of 2019. Graduating seniors will soon accept their diplomas and celebrate a major milestone with friends and family. While these new graduates kick back and relax, their parents stress about planning graduation parties - figuring out food, seating, entertainment and much more. With all of the details that go into planning a successful graduation party, underage drinking is the last thing on parents’ minds. It shouldn’t be.

Securing alcohol that will be available to adults attending a graduation party is an important detail too many parents overlook. An unsecured and unsupervised case of beer or a bottle of wine can be tempting for teens. Worse, an older sibling or unaware relative may even provide your graduate with alcohol. On average, 53% of underage drinkers reported family and friends as their source of alcohol. 

While some people may think drinking at a graduation party seems innocent, teenager’s brains are still developing and are highly sensitive to the effects of alcohol. Short-term use leads to sharply decreased judgement while regular use of alcohol during adolescence can have lasting effects and may even interfere with normal brain functioning during adulthood. Parents can also get in legal trouble for allowing underage drinking on their property. Social host ordinances will penalize parents if they are caught providing liquor to underage drinkers, even if it was not intentional.

“Social host ordinances hold adults responsible for hosting or providing a place for underage drinking to happen,” said Sadie Holland, the prevention education manager for Know the Truth.

As of 2018, social host ordinances have been adopted by 132 cities and 33 counties in the state. Parents who violate social host ordinances can face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Parents may also be held responsible for damages if a teen is in an alcohol-related accident while impaired.

“While it may seem intimidating, there are easy steps you can take to help prevent underage drinking,” advised Holland. 


Discuss underage drinking 

with your teen

Only 1 in 100 parents suspect that their child consumes alcohol, but one in six teens are involved in underage drinking. Parents need to accept the reality that underage drinking is common and discuss their expectations with their children.


Talk to your teen about 

social host ordinances

When talking to their children, parents should also explain what a social host ordinance is and what the penalties mean. By explaining the consequences to teens, it will make them more aware of what they risk for their parents by drinking underage.


Have a backup plan

While planning the party, parents should discuss how they will handle the situation if underage drinking occurs. Having a plan already in place will help parents resolve the situation quickly.


Recruit help

Share your expectations with the other adults attending the event so that they can help you keep an eye out for underage drinking. Even better, consider hiring a bartender for the event.


Remain aware

By far the most important way to prevent underage drinking is to remain aware of what is happening at your home. You may be tempted to imbibe yourself, but if you are impaired, it can be much harder to make sure your teen doesn’t.


Know the Truth is the substance use prevention program of Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge

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