It’s summertime, which means pool parties and backyard BBQs! This also means more risk for youth substance misuse: most underage drinking occurs in private settings such as home parties.
Alcohol in the home remains the primary source of access for underage drinkers. Parents and other adults have the ability and responsibility to limit youths’ access to alcohol, especially at social gatherings hosted at home.
Most parents and caregivers do not serve alcohol to youth. Some parents may feel pressure to allow parties with alcohol in their homes, or they may feel that their children are safer if they consume alcohol under parental supervision; however, research shows that “permissive attitudes toward adolescent drinking… can lead teens into unhealthy relationships with alcohol” (NIAA).
Remember, it is illegal in Vermont to serve alcohol to minors under the age of 21. Under Vermont law, the consequences for such “social hosting” includes up to two years in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
If you are hosting a gathering this summer, here are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that children and youth stay safe and substance-free:
- Provide non-alcoholic beverages, such as lemonade, coffee/tea, or soda. This also supports our friends and family members who are in recovery! If an adult says “no, thank you” to an alcoholic drink, there’s no need to ask them why. Instead, offer them a non-alcoholic beverage to enjoy.
- Keep alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in separate coolers, and label these containers clearly. See Healthy Lamoille Valley‘s great examples below!
- Avoid serving alcoholic beverages that appeal to children and youth, with packaging resembling fruity and sweet drinks such as soda, popsicles, or iced tea.
- Have an adult monitor the alcohol during the gathering.
- Confirm that your guests have a safe and sober ride home with a designated driver or taxi.
- Talk with your child. Children who learn about the risks of substance use and about their parents’/caregivers’ expectations around substance use are significantly less likely to start using alcohol and drugs. For resources to support you in having a conversation with your child, visit ParentUpVT.org.