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Guest column

Help your grad celebrate safely

Published May 19, 2006

Spring brings along school graduations that traditionally proclaim the approaching end of another school year and a new chapter in your child's life. High school graduations begin this evening in Pasco County and continue Sunday.

Few moments in the life of a teenager match the sheer anticipation and expectations of graduation nights. For graduates and families, this time means much more than fancy clothes, fancy drives, fancy dinners and a corsage; it marks the end of an era and the beginning of a wonderful and rewarding time.

Unfortunately, graduation also proclaims another tradition: The opportunity for celebration and underage drinking And that can lead to serious problems. This is a time of great vulnerability for your children. Great tragedy and great joy are often separated only by a fleeting moment, a single snap decision.

To help counteract this problem, the Pasco School Board's Department of Student Services is asking parents to open the lines of communication and promote the concept of a loving, supervised, safe, alcohol-free graduation night.

Graduation is a time when your child needs some latitude, but your shadow and your values should be close by. Ideally, parents have instilled their moral compass in their children and modeled responsible decisionmaking all along. However, this is a good time for a quick review.

Prepare your teen to deal with some of the challenges and pressures they may face during this festive time. Yes, your teenager may roll their eyes, however, you can handle that a lot better than the serious consequences of underage drinking and poor decisionmaking. Of course, words only go so far. Ensuring your teen's safety is your ultimate job as a parent.

Things you can do as a parent:

Tell them how much you love them.

Set a time for them to be home. They may be graduating but they still live with you.

Tell them you probably won't sleep until they get home. (A little guilt won't hurt.) Ask your child for an itinerary and encourage or require checking in.

Give them a cell phone to use before they leave. Let them know that if they don't answer that phone it will cost them dearly.

Talk to other parents about not providing alcohol at events your child will be attending. Be on call! Make sure your teens understand you will provide a pickup service at any hour.

Know who your children's friends are and what they do. Teens who hang out with friends who engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking, are far more likely to smoke and drink themselves, as well as engage in other risky behaviors.

Be at home when your child has a party. Volunteering to host an aftergraduation party is commendable, but that does not mean you should take on the entire planning responsibility. Get a large network of parents to work with you.

Refuse to supply alcohol to youths under 21. Make sure alcohol is not brought into your home or onto your property by your child's friends. Open house parties involving underage drinking are illegal. Such parties also could subject you to civil liability.

State law reads: 856.015 Open House Parties: No adult having control of any residence shall allow an open house party to take place at said residence if any alcoholic beverage or drug is possessed or consumed at said residence by any minor where an adult knew that an alcoholic beverage or drug is in the possession of or being consumed by a minor at said residence and where the adult fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage or drug. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.

If as a parent you have adopted the misguided strategy that you would rather they drink in front of you than behind your back then you have pretty much guaranteed they will do both.

By celebrating responsibly, wonderful and lasting memories can come from these special events.

Amelia Van Name Larson is supervisor of student services for the District School Board of Pasco County. She submitted this on behalf of her department. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

[Last modified May 19, 2006, 03:00:21]

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