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Weston Dear Kristin, Underage Drinking

Question: Spring is in the air, and I know my high school student will be attending graduation parties and spending lots of time with friends before heading off to college. I am concerned about my child being around alcohol and being in situations where it is being served. How do I talk to my child about being in these situations? What are the legalities of underage drinking?

Answer: This is an issue that faces parents starting in middle school, with the eighth grade “moving up” ceremony. There are two main issues within your question — communication with your child and the legal implications of an issue such as underage drinking.

Communication is the key to dealing with these and many other issues that face youth and families today. The key is to start talking to your children before they choose to drink or are faced with those situations. Below are some tips for good communication that can apply not only to alcohol, but other sensitive subjects.

Don’t think, “It’s not my child:” Every child is at risk!

  • Remember that YOU are the biggest influence in your child’s life: The more you connect with your child the less likely they’ll be to give in to peer pressure.
  • Don’t be fooled that youth alcohol is a rite of passage: It can damage an adolescent’s developing brain.
  • Let your children know where you stand on the issue: Children who know their parents attitudes and expectations will be more likely to consider them when making decisions.
  • Establish specific rules and consequences: Tell your children that they are not allowed to drink, that underage drinking will not be tolerated and enforce it.
  • Be involved and monitor your child’s activity: Don’t allow youth drinking at home. Teens who are allowed to drink alcohol in their home consume twice as much as those with a no-tolerance policy.
  • Be a positive role model: Drink responsibly and let your teen see you decline alcohol from time to time.
  • Establish open communication: Make it easy for your teen to talk honestly with you.
  • Show you care: Even though young teens may not always show it, they still need to know that they are important to their parents. Make it a point to regularly spend one-on-one time with your child — time when you can give him or her your loving, undivided attention. Some activities to share: a walk, a bike ride, a quiet dinner out or a cookie-baking session.
  • Understand that your child is growing up: This doesn’t mean a hands-off attitude. But as you guide your child’s behavior, also make an effort to respect his or her growing need for independence and privacy.

As for the legal consequences, there are many severe ones. It can be confusing because the laws constantly change. Underage drinking laws can be found here and information about social host law can be found here .

It is important that while these are the legal consequences, there are many potential civil consequences that homeowners can face. A homeowner is still responsible for their property and behaviors on it even when they are not present or have not given their consent.

For more information, please visit www.settherulesct.org .

Kristin Ferrara is the director of Weston Youth Services. Do you have a question for Kristin? Ask it here .

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