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Dear Dr. JPL:
Our daughter just got invited to a big holiday bash hosted by parents who are notorious for allowing underage drinking. She reports that all her friends are going. She has also promised she will not drink and additionally has sworn to call us if things there seem to be getting out of hand. We trust her, but not the parents in charge or the situation. What should we do?
The first thing you have to do is decide whether you are willing to let her attend the holiday party. If you prefer that she opt out, sit down with her and calmly explain your concerns. Provide her with an opportunity to respond to what you have presented. Be sure to stay attentive and focused, even if you have no intention of changing your mind. Validate her disappointment (or relief). Also offer her alternative ways to spend the night. One option for example, is to allow her to invite a group of her friends over for a get together. Suggest that she host a holiday decorating or baking party. Roll out the piano and suggest a holiday sing-off. The list of ways to engage in holiday activities is endless.
If after much consideration you decide to allow her to attend, be specific about your expectations. Clearly express your concerns and discuss a safety plan. Come up with a check-in code word she can text you at specific intervals (e.g. every hour) that signifies that all is well. Also devise a code word that means “come get me immediately.” Confer with the parents of her friends and agree to keep each other in the loop about any important information regarding the festivities, before, during, and even after the party.
In addition, you may want to let her know you intend to do a drive-by during the party so you can see for yourself that the situation is under control. If she seems resistant to this idea, make it clear that your intent is to check things out, not to embarrass her. Caution her, however, that there will be serious consequences if you she doesn’t keep her promises. Finally, make it clear that her well-being means everything to you. Although she probably already knows this, sometimes things like this need to be said out loud.
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.