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Drinking Parties Hosted by Friends' Parents

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My 18-year-old son goes to a lot of parties. It is common practice in this area for adults to buy alcohol for their teens and allow them to drink it at these parties. The kids give up their car keys and everybody spends the night. My husband and I will not accept the liability for a party at our house, nor do we want to be around a bunch of drunken teens. We are concerned about how often our son drinks and continually preach to him about drinking and driving. He has told us that they always have a designated driver when they are out partying. I voiced my concerns about binge drinking and he said, "Oh, it's not a problem, don't worry." He is in his senior year and feels like this year should be a big party for him. We recently had a big fight about rules and consequences for breaking rules. I told him he could either follow our rules or leave. He still won't listen to us properly.

A: It's shameful that parents in your area not only tolerate but also encourage teens' abuse of alcohol. These parents believe that they hold an enlightened and realistic view of adolescent drinking--"They're going to drink anyway, so it might as well be under my roof where I can take keys and make sure everyone is safe." Would these same parents hand out birth control to teens as long as they had "safe sex"?

Given that alcohol is by far the most abused drug by teens and given the horrific statistics of teen alcohol-related auto fatalities, parents who sponsor such teenage drunk fests are beyond irresponsible; they are abusing children.

It sounds like you and your son might benefit from some family counseling to determine a fair-minded plan of peaceful coexistence. Your son does not have to like your decisions in this matter. He merely needs to respect your actions and opinions and understand why and how you have formulated them.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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