Should My High School Graduate Attend a Grad Party With Alcohol? – Ask Dr. JPL

Should My High School Graduate Attend a Grad Party With Alcohol? – Ask Dr. JPL

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Question

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.

Answer:

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.

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Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder is one of the tween, teen and parenting experts that participated in the focus groups that helped form the new educational campaign and website, TheAlcoholTalk.com. Her expertise and vast experience were also tapped for much of the advice and guidance included on the site. Her unique understanding of the communication techniques necessary for The Alcohol Talk to effectively take place make her an ideal spokesperson for the campaign. Dr. Powell-Lunder is a clinical psychologist specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families. She is co-author of the book Teenage as a Second Language (Adams Media 2010) and the creator of www.itsatweenslife.com, an interactive and informational website for parents and tweens, and co-creator of www.Talkingteenage.com, an interactive informational website for the parents of teenagers. Jennifer is a regular contributor for outlets including Psychology Today, Parenting Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, GalTime, KnowMoreTV, Examiner, and North Texas Kids. She has also been featured in The Huffington Post, Yahoo, AOL’s ParentDish, Mamapedia and many other blogs and websites. As a parenting expert on both radio and television programs including NPR’s Talk of the Nation, NBC’s TODAY in New York, Better TV and WCBS, FOX and ABC affiliates, Jennifer talks about tween, teen and parenting issues. She was profiled in Westchester Magazine’s January 2012 feature on ‘People to Watch Jennifer is a published researcher, in-demand speaker and consultant on tween, teen, and young adult issues. She spent almost a decade as a Program Director of an inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit at a private psychiatric hospital in the Northeast where she now serves as Senior Clinical Liaison. She is also an adjunct professor of psychology at Pace University. Jennifer sits on the Board of Directors for Family Ties, a non-profit family advocacy agency serving Westchester County, NY and maintains a private outpatient practice in Bedford Hills, NY.

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