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Go Ask Mom

Planning a holiday party? Tips to help kids steer clear of the alcohol

Posted December 23, 2018 8:51 a.m. EST

The kids are out of school, which means lots of them will have some extra time on their hands. And during the holiday season, that can mean underage drinking.

Here are some startling facts about underage holiday drinking, courtesy of Talk It Out NC, the state-sponsored initiative to reduce underage drinking:

  • Alcohol consumption, including underage drinking, is at its highest during the holiday season.
  • According to a study taken from a sample of hospitals from around the country, nearly 2,000 underage people will spend New Year’s Day in the hospital because of alcohol.
  • The study also says more than 1 in 10 teenagers will drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol on New Year’s Eve.

While kids will be procuring those drinks on their own in many cases, the beer and booze also could be coming from the cabinets of their parents or family friends as they attend holiday parties. Now is a great time to remind tweens and teens about the dangers of underage drinking. (Drinking before their brain is fully developed can damage adolescent brains.)

But it's also time for adults to take the appropriate steps to ensure there is no underage drinking during holiday parties. In North Carolina, if an adult allows a minor to consume alcohol or if the adult “should have known” kids were drinking in your home, they can be criminally charged, according to the campaign. If a child gets hurt or dies because minors were drinking in a home, the adult could be liable and could be sued.

“During the holidays, there are often more opportunities to drink underage, and we warn parents they must have a strategy to keep alcohol out of the hands of underage guests at their homes,” says Jim Van Hecke, deputy director of education outreach for the NC Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, in a news release. “That’s why we are launching Operation Holiday-Party Parenting to alert parents to the legal risks to them and to the health risks to their children because of the damage alcohol can cause to the developing brain. With many social events being held this time of year, it’s the perfect season for families to start the alcohol conversation.”

Talk It Out offers these tips if you're planning a holiday party where alcohol is involved.

  • At holiday parties, lock up alcohol not served.
  • Give color-coded or different style cups to adults and underage guests.
  • Make a punch without alcohol so underage guests feel like they’re drinking something special without missing out on the fun.
  • If you’re not home, don’t allow parties at your house.
  • Remind your children and their friends that you are always ready and willing to pick them up from uncomfortable situations, no questions asked.
  • If children have a smartphone, help them download a ride service app like Uber or Lyft so if they’re in a bad situation, they can get a ride home. This is especially important if you’re not around to pick them up.
  • Be responsible when it comes to driving and always have a safety plan.
  • Take the Talk it Out Pledge with your family.

“We know the alcohol conversation with children can be difficult, which is why we created the Talk It Out Pledge,” says Van Hecke in the release. “It’s a great conversation starter, and there’s no better time than the holidays, when children will be tempted at social gatherings.”