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Diane Tomer, Director of Development and Marketing
By Jeanne Campanella, published in the Sun News.
Parents play a major role in their child’s decision to drink or not drink alcohol.
“Parents Who Host Lose the Most: Don’t be a Party to Teenage Drinking,” is a public awareness campaign developed in 2000 by Ohio’s Drug-Free Action Alliance. It encourages parents and other community leaders to send a unified message, especially during prom and graduation season, that teen alcohol consumption is unhealthy, unsafe and unacceptable.
Hosting a prom or graduation party where alcohol is available to underage youth is also illegal.
In Ohio, parents who allow a person under age 21 (other than their own child) to remain on their property while consuming or possessing alcohol can face a jail sentence of six months, a fine of $1,000 and loss of property.
Adults can be sued for providing alcohol to a teen if that teenager hurts himself or herself, someone else, or damages property.
Many parents are under the false impression that it is safer to have teenagers drinking under their roof so they can be “monitored” and their car keys taken away. This may eliminate the dangers of drinking and driving. but it does not minimize other safety risks involved. The risk of alcohol poisoning, drowning, falls and other accidents are still present.
Underage drinking also plays a significant role in increased sexual behavior, including unwanted, unintended and unprotected sexual activity, sex with multiple partners and teenage pregnancy.
Youth who begin drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse alcohol later in life, than those who begin drinking at or after age 21.
Additionally, heavy alcohol use by adolescents has long-term effects on brain development.
These health and safety risks have real consequences that most parents try to protect their children from. Yet 31 percent of youth surveyed report obtaining alcohol from their parents, while another 27 percent say they got it from other adults.
Providing alcohol to underage youth sends a mixed message and adds to a teenager’s confusion about the acceptability of drinking. Jennifer Tulli, program manager at Recovery Resources’ Lakewood office, agrees.
“Parents need to remember that they are parents and important role models for their children; they are not their children’s friends. As much as parents may want to be perceived as ‘cool,’ research and surveys of students have indicated that kids appreciate rules and function better when they know what’s expected of them. The kids I see in treatment have often expressed they wish they had had more structure from their parents, not less.”
The “Parents Who Host Lose the Most” public awareness campaign also provides an opportunity to open a conversation with younger children about the dangers of underage drinking, before they reach prom or graduation age.
Nicole Stacey, Recovery Resources’ social worker at Rocky River Middle School, urges parents to “start conversations with your children about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs as early as possible, along with your conversations about other safety issues. The younger they are when you begin that dialogue,” she said, “the more likely they are to be able to handle those situations when they arise.”
For more information on the “Parents Who Host Lose the Most” campaign and for helpful alcohol-free party planning tips, visit DrugFreeActionAlliance.org.
Community Challenge Corner is a series of regular educational and informational articles for parents and other caring adults presented by Recovery Resources’ Community Challenge. The organization strives to prevent the use/abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by Cleveland’s West Shore youth with community programs promoting healthy life choices. For more information, contact Sharyse Jones, prevention and adolescent manager at Recovery Resources, (216) 431.4131, Ext. 306, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit recres.org.