Safe Homes, Smart Parties: Tips for Parents

School’s out for the summer, and kids are celebrating graduations and a break from the books. Socializing for teens and preteens peaks this time of year, with many of them throwing and attending parties.

For parents of middle- and high-school age students, the end of the school year can present a challenge.  Many parents struggle with encouraging kids to be independent and make acceptable choices, while urging self-control and safe decision-making when it comes to using alcohol or drugs.

“It’s important to help your child envision a future without negative consequences of underage drinking and substance abuse,” says David Vittoria, assistant vice president of South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center.  “Parents need to explain how underage drinking or using drugs can result in death or disability, affect the still-developing brain and increase the likelihood of chronic alcohol problems and addiction.”

Consider the statistics:

  • According to the most recent Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey, 9.4 percent of middle school students and 27.1 percent of Florida high school students reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days. While these numbers have decreased 12 percent since 2004, it’s important for parents and teachers to be aware of the signs of alcohol use and abuse.
  • The median age at which children begin drinking is 12, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).
  • Young people who begin drinking before age 15 are 4 times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21.

Mr. Vittoria and the team of experts who lead the adolescent programs at South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center, share the following Safe Homes Smart Parties tips from Informed Families, one of Baptist Health South Florida’s community partners.

When Your Teen Is Attending a Party

Discuss the details of the party with your teen or preteen, including behavior expectations and rules, such as:

  • An agreed upon curfew.
  • How your teen will get to and from the party, including making sure he or she can reach you for a ride home if necessary.
  • Who the driver is and that it’s never acceptable to get into a car with someone who has been drinking or using drugs.
  • Calling or texting to let you know when they have arrived to and when they are leaving the party.
  • What your teen should do if alcohol, tobacco or drugs are present at the party.
  • Change in plans need your prior approval.
Personally contact the party host (parent) to:
  • Introduce yourself and offer your phone number.
  • Ask for the address and time of the party.
  • Let the host know that your teen is not allowed to drink or smoke.
  • Ask if any alcohol will be served or allowed to be brought in by other guests.
  • Ask if there will be parental supervisor throughout the event.

When Your Teen Is Hosting a Party

Issues to discuss and rules to set with your teen or preteen before the party should include:

  • Know who the guests will be and set definite limits.
  • No drugs, including alcohol or tobacco.
  • No leaving the party and returning. This discourages people from leaving with the intent of drinking or using drugs in their cars or elsewhere and returning to the party.
  • The rooms in your home that are off limits.

Know Your Responsibilities
The responsible adult at a kids’ party must be visible and aware. Remember:

  • It is illegal to allow anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol on your property.
  • You can be held liable both civilly and criminally if any person under the age of 21 has been drinking in your home.
  • You are also responsible to ensure that no one is bringing drugs into your home or using drugs on the premises.

“Know who your kids’ friends are, ask the right questions and always attach to a positive message to the questions you ask,” adds Mr. Vittoria. “Sometimes the most powerful moment you can create with your kids is in the question you ask, not just in the answer you think you have to have.”

Alcohol is a legal substance and most people can consume it without any negative consequences. But, if you think that you or someone you know might have a challenge with alcohol, or if you’d like to get more information on how we can help, contact the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center – anytime, 24/7 – at 786-662-8118 or 1-800-YES-HOPE.

About the Author
David Vittoria smaller headshot David Vittoria is assistant vice president of South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center. Dedicated to addiction treatment, recovery, advocacy and prevention for more than 20 years, he has held various clinical and administrative positions in mental health and substance abuse facilities located throughout South Florida. A Miami native, Mr. Vittoria earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from Florida International University. He is a Certified Addictions Professional (CAP), an Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC) and a National Certified Addictions Counselor (NCAC). Mr. Vittoria also is a board member of Informed Families and a regular contributor to the organization’s blog, “From the Front Lines.”

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