Many of us recall from our youth that one house where you could hang out and basically do whatever you want or that friend whose parents were always away on the weekend, or maybe were there to “supervise” the party. Well, those homes still exist and the partying and supply of drugs and/or alcohol have become more prevalent. I am fortunate to work in the community where I grew up for the past twenty years and in that time I have investigated my share of “party houses” and have seen what goes on, and the unfortunate trouble that they cause.
We all know that alcohol and drugs lower our inhibitions and affect our judgment which often times leads to unwise and unfortunate decisions. Aside from the underage alcohol citations, our officers have encountered car accidents – some serious – as a result of those leaving these party houses. We have also investigated sexual assaults and thefts, including one where the homeowner had over $10,000 in jewelry and electronics stolen!
For the most part, the parents of these kids were unaware that a party was occurring and were quite cooperative with the police, and I believe that in some cases the consequences delivered by the parents were much more severe than that of the police! However, we do occasionally encounter the parent that enables their child and will go to great lengths to “protect” the people at the party as they view underage drinking as a rite of passage. To combat that philosophy, my community passed an ordinance aimed at these social hosts. Basically, the ordinance holds those individuals responsible for underage drinking events held on their property. This ordinance was modeled after a policy in Ventura, CA. (available here to view).
“Nearly three in ten (28.6%) of those 25 and younger that binge drink report last doing so in their homes, and 45.2% report last binge drinking at someone else’s home. These data point to “house parties” as settings for binge drinking amoung young adults” (Source: Model Social Host Liability Ordinance Ventura, Ca., November 2005)
Being a parent, like the rest of you, it is reassuring to know where my kids are and who they are with and to have that house where they like to – as my 16 year old states – chill! My wife and I have built a nice basement with an area for television/movie watching, along with an area that has a pinball machine and arcade video game. Needless to say, the basement has that chill factor! These homes can be great places to hang out, but do not have to become the “party house”.
Now, ideally, our goal is to avoid or prevent the problem from ever occurring. The main way to achieve that is to have mutual respect and trust with your teen. We all like to believe that our hard work in prevention will pay off and our kids will not travel down that road, however there are times when peer pressure will be great. That is why we also need to know our kids’ friends and, equally as important, their parents. We also need to limit the accessibility and availability of alcohol to our children. Having excessive amounts of alcohol in the home not only feeds the curiosity but also makes it difficult to keep track of. Lastly, we also need to have a firm stance on the consequences should there be a party in our home.
Get to know your teen and their friends, have that trust factor and hopefully you won’t have those police cars in front of your home at 2 am!