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Teen Party Season 101: How Underage Drinking Can Harm Both Parents and Kids

With the prom and high school graduations in full swing, kids are ready to cut loose – sometimes, with alcohol. Here's what every family needs to know.

With summer vacation creeping closer and closer, many teens – especially soon-to-be graduates – are getting anxious with excitement for the season of partying to begin. Lately, prom plans have been circulating high school halls and, in a few more weeks, mailboxes will be filled with graduation party invites. Hey, your teen's worked hard for four years. Why shouldn't there be a celebration?

However, as many of these teens will also be treating this summer (and its parties) as a transition to college life, they'll also be facing their first test as young adults: to drink or not to drink.

Parents who host

And if you, as parents, may be thinking, "I'd rather my teen and her friends have a few sips under the safety of my own roof," think again.

In many states, including Michigan, there exist "Social Host Liability Laws." This means that if you are caught serving alcohol to minors in your home, not only are you endangering your child's life and the lives of many others – but you could also end up facing some serious charges.

Adults who provide alcohol or host parties serving alcohol to underage drinkers can face up to 60 days in jail and fines up to $1,000 for a first offense.

"Parents can be sued civilly if they serve alcohol to a minor and that minor is injured or injures someone else," says Cy Abdo, a Macomb County attorney who deals with various minor-in-possession cases. "Contributing to the delinquency of a minor by making alcohol accessible to them can have parents charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense."

Of the cases involving minors that Abdo reports his office receiving, 70 to 80 percent deal with underage alcohol and drug abuse. "We definitely see these situations go up in numbers around this time of year," he says.

Minors in possession

What if your teen is found in possession of alcohol at your home when you are not around? According to Michigan state law, you cannot be charged under these circumstances – unless, however, your absence is due to a "failure of supervision," meaning you are aware of the activity taking place in your home but take no action to prevent it or stop it from continuing.

For the teen, Michigan has a forgiving statue that states that for a first MIP offense, the minor can be placed upon probation, pay community service hours and attend a substance abuse program. On the other hand, a second offense brings more serious consequences, such as potential jail time.

All-nighter alternative

A better way to celebrate the year's end? Have an "All-Nighter" at your teen's school!

SADD, the organization of Students Against Destructive Decisions, suggests that these parties are perfect for teens that want to celebrate with the rest of their friends – and for parents who want to feel safe knowing their kids are partying the right way.

Campaign with other parents for your teen's school to host an all-nighter event after prom or graduation. Begin with a fun theme, plenty of fundraising ideas and creative activities that will help ensure your safety, the safety of others and, most importantly, your teen's future.

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