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High School Graduation Party: You Should Be Worried and Here’s Why

Graduation is just around the corner, and your teen is getting ready to celebrate finishing four long years of high school. And that means lots of graduation parties. There will be tame barbecues for teens and their families, but there will also be parties just for the seniors. Chances are some of these will be unsupervised.

Addison Thalhamer, a freshman at University of Michigan, remembers that on his graduation night, his school offered a supervised dance, but a lot of his friends pre-gamed the dance with alcohol. Afterwards, many of them continued drinking at a friend’s house, where the parents permitted alcohol.

But even though you may think your teen has encountered these challenges before, Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a pediatrician in Pittsburgh, believes that there is an added risk during graduation season.

“At high school graduation parties, the big concern is that teens may feel that this is their last opportunity with this group of people in this role, so they might do things that up until now they haven’t been willing to do.”

For example, some teenagers may see this as their last chance to try a new substance or increase their level of intimacy with a partner.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, parents do make a difference. Consider these festivities an opportunity to be a positive role model and encourage safe and smart behavior. The best way to do that is by communicating your expectations to them.

Have a Conversation Before the High School Graduation Party

Gilboa recommends finding a time for a conversation with your teenager that includes the following points:

  • Acknowledge your limits as a parent of a young adult.
  • Complement your teens on the good decisions they have made until now.
  • Suggest that your teens remind themselves of their motivations behind these past decisions.
  • Plan how they might react if they feel increased pressure to make a decision they haven’t made in the past.

It’s also never a bad idea to review the ground rules for drinking and teenage parties with alcohol. Remind your teen that drinking alcohol under the age of 21 is illegal. “Parents should never endorse alcohol use when their children are under the legal drinking age,” says Dr. Russell Hyken, a St. Louis-based psychologist and author of The Parent Playbook: More Discussion/Fewer Arguments.

Also emphasize that your teen should never get in a car when the driver has had any alcohol. And adds Hannah Margolin, a freshman at Brown University, “Tell your daughter or son you are available to drive if necessary—no questions asked.” That way they’ll be comfortable calling you if they’re in a risky situation.

Finally, don’t forget to remind your teen to have a good time. It’s a high school graduation party, after all.

Rebecca Borison is a writer in New York City.

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