Be parents, not buddies

Published 4:33pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

When I was in my teens, my mom felt more comfortable if she provided the alcohol and allowed me and my friends to drink with her. She would even allow us to have our party while she stayed in her room. She thought that by allowing us to drink at her place, we’d be safe and no one would get hurt.

I love my mom and one day I hope I’ll see her again, but she was wrong — and I even knew that then. At that point, I lived with my Nanny, and I believed if I even held a beer, Nanny would know. You didn’t cross my Nanny — she had a way of knowing.

As we end the school year, many of our children will celebrate their junior and senior proms. Over the summer, there will be parties to say farewell to those going off to college or the military. As parents, we are not our children’s friends. Do not fall prey to the belief that you are protecting them by allowing them to drink in your home.

First, the physical implications are the most damaging. The male human brain doesn’t finish fully developing until about the age of 25, and the likelihood of sexual assault increases substantially when alcohol is involved. Nearly all of the sexual assaults that we investigate are those that occur during drug or alcohol induced incapacitation. No parent wants that happening in his or her home.

Second are the legal implications. The law simply states that if there is a social gathering at any house, not just your house, and alcohol is illegally possessed by anyone under 21, then you are guilty of a misdemeanor. This refers to any adult. An older sibling that may be home from college or the military is just as responsible and will be held accountable.

Keeping it quiet is futile as well. Parking on the next street over and keeping the music down is only half of it. It will leak through social media, and if parents are monitoring their kids’ social media accounts (as they should), they’ll know where the party is. Maybe a nosy neighbor will call it in. Since we are confident no one will host such a party, we must prepare ourselves for what the children will do while they are out. There will be alcohol present where they go. Unless you have mastered my Nanny’s techniques of sensing when your kids even hold a beer, you can purchase alcohol sensory tests at most drug stores.

Before they go out, give them consequences. Tell them you will test them for alcohol and if they fail, you will take away their cars, phones or other privileges. This also gives them an out. When prompted to drink, they have the excuse to say, “Mom and Dad are waiting up for me and I have to pass a Breathalyzer or I lose my car.”

We only get one chance to get this right. When raising a child, you can’t be their best buddy — however, when I became a dad, I realized my best friend growing up was Nanny.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at cgeorge@shelbyso.com.

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