As soon as the Halloween candy and decorations begin appearing in stores, kids start talking about their costumes. Can we buy this costume, or should we make it? Should I dress up as a superhero or a zombie? The questions are endless. But as kids turn into teens, the focus also turns from trick-or-treating with friends to “who’s having a party?” That question can send parental radar into overload because teen parties can mean underage drinking.
Beware of Your Teen’s Halloween Plans
Knowing where your teen will be celebrating Halloween is a good first step. After all, Halloween is a time of make-believe and disguise. This could create a dangerous brew that makes teens feel more comfortable stepping outside their comfort zones and making the choice to drink alcohol.
Your teen may want to go to a party where you don’t know the parents, or they may be headed to the home of a neighbor that you know and trust. Either way, this is a good time to discuss the risks of underage drinking because the majority of teens will try alcohol for the first time around age 14.
Even if your teen says they don’t drink, there could be alcohol available at any party they attend. This creates a lot of peer pressure for teens. Talk with them about how to handle a situation where they might be offered a spiked drink. If they have friends who drive, talk to them about not getting into a car with someone who has been drinking. Let them know you will come to pick them up any time they feel uncomfortable.
Enjoy Treats, Not Spiked Drinks
If you give permission for your teen to attend a Halloween party, talk to them about avoiding risky decisions and staying safe. Remind them that once they put down their drink, even to go to the bathroom, it’s no longer their drink. An unattended glass is a perfect opportunity for someone to turn a soda into a spiked drink.
Candy-flavored shots are also popular with teens because the sugar masks the taste of alcohol. This can be a bad combination because it can lead to binge drinking. Quickly downing several shots because they taste good and don’t have an immediate effect can lead to dangerously high blood alcohol levels in teens.
Don’t Get Tricked into Hosting a Big Party
Some families love Halloween and want to show off their scary decorations. Allowing your child to host a large party where some teens may have different ideas about what’s a good time, could spell trouble for you.
Homeowners are responsible for what happens under their roof, even if they don’t know alcohol is being consumed. It’s easy for teens to sneak alcohol into a party in a backpack or water bottle. Once the alcohol is at the party, it’s easy for teens to spike their soda drinks with hard alcohol and you won’t know it. If a teen has been drinking at your house and gets behind the wheel of a car, you could be held liable if they get into an accident.
Go ahead and celebrate but encourage your teen to invite over a smaller group of friends that you know and trust. Let them hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, serve Halloween-themed food, and give away prizes for the best costumes.
Set Clear Rules About Scary Behavior
Parents can’t be everywhere, and you will need to trust your teen to make the right choices. Be clear about a zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol in your home and make sure teens know the consequences for breaking the rules.
The best thing parents can do is to talk to teens about the dangers of underage drinking. You may think your kids are not listening to you, but parents are a powerful influence in a child’s life. Start with small conversations and keep the lines of communication open. Halloween is also a great time for families to Take the Pledge together to stop underage drinking.