It’s the end of a tough day at work and…
Dear Dr. JPL,
My daughter is a graduating senior who will be heading off to college at the end of the summer. She recently came to me and told me her entire class has been invited to a BYOB graduation party at one of her classmate’s homes. I have already made it clear that she cannot bring alcohol (she’s only 18), but I am on the fence about whether we should allow her to attend at all. Your input would be much appreciated.
The first thing I would recommend is that you clarify the situation. My experience in working with teens is that sometimes they present situations without being armed with all the facts. A few questions that come to my mind are: Did the student’s parents sanction a BYOB grad party? What are other parent’s thoughts about this? How big is your daughter’s class?
It is important to turn to other parents as well as the parents of the classmate to clarify. Sometimes BYOB starts out as, ‘No, we will not serve alcohol to minors in our home,” the BYOB is a result of a misinterpretation of a wistful teenager. As research reflects, a majority of teens surveyed report that they drink due to peer pressure. My own observation is that sometimes parents allow their teens to drink because they too feel the pressure when their teens insist that all the other kids are allowed to drink. Parents don’t want to be labeled as “lame,” or “uncool.” That is why it is so important to network with other parents. More often than not parents have quite similar views on this difficult dilemma; the power of support makes it easier to feel confident about a decision.
If your detective work yields affirmation that the situation is indeed how your daughter has presented it, you have much to consider.
As you mentioned your daughter is heading off to college soon, she will probably be faced with similar dilemmas. This is a great opportunity for you to discuss your concerns about underage drinking with her. It also provides the perfect forum to discuss ways to approach situations when she is away at school. Before you reach a decision I suggest that you consider the following:
- How many people will attend this party? A large group of underage drinkers is a red flag that trouble seems imminent.
- Are there alternative options to attending this party? Just because ‘everyone’ was invited, does not mean everyone will attend.
- How does your daughter really feel about attending? Is she simply feeling like she should or must attend because everyone else is? Encourage her to discuss this with her friends.
- If she does attend, set up an exit strategy in case a crisis occurs (e.g. the party get out of hand, and or your sober daughter starts to feel uncomfortable).
This is one of those situations in which parents must decide where they stand. The question you need to ask yourselves perhaps is this: “Is your confidence and trust in your daughter enough to feel comfortable with allowing her to attend?” The answer, not so simple.
ASK DR. JPL: Have a question about your own teen and alcohol? Ask our resident tween, teen and parenting expert, Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder Psy.D, to help you have The Alcohol Talk with your child. Submit your questions on the Ask Dr. JPL page of this blog. Dr. JPL may answer your question on the blog to help other parents address similar issues with their children.