Thousands of mortar boards will be tossed into the air across Washington this June; a time-honored sign that our high school seniors have finally graduated.
The Washington State Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking (RUaD), which is made up of 24 state, local, and non-profit partners dedicated to reducing underage drinking, salutes our state’s new graduates and wishes them the best.
Before our graduates head off to the next phase of their life, they deserve to celebrate their achievements. However, while graduation is a rite of passage, alcohol should not be an accepted part of that rite.
Parents must talk now — before graduation night
Although the majority of parents think otherwise, research shows that parents are the No. 1 influence on whether teens drink. Parents, talk to your graduate now about the negative consequences that can result from drinking – such as traffic fatalities, violence, suicide and sexual activity – before your graduate’s post-ceremony plans are made. Tips are available at www.StartTalkingNow.org.
Parents can make sure their graduate has a safe and fun graduation night. They should also remember that they can be held liable if they host a party where minors are consuming alcohol. Visit www.StartTalkingNow.org for more specifics about Washington’s “Social Host” law.
• Make graduation a family event
• Ask about post-ceremony plans and confirm with other parents
• Set and enforce clear rules and expectations about underage drinking
• Offer to host an alcohol-free party for all graduates
• Work with the school to plan an alcohol-free “grad night”
• Discuss real-world penalties for underage drinking with their teen
• Offer solutions if alcohol shows up
As parents help their graduate prepare for life after high school, they should know that alcohol is by far the biggest drug problem among Washington’s youth, and has taken more young lives than tobacco and illicit drugs combined.
According to the 2006 Healthy Youth Survey, 42 percent of Washington seniors have had alcohol in the last 30 days, while 70 percent think it’s easy to get alcohol when they want it.
Washington youth report that they drink and drive, binge drink, and ride in cars with drivers who have been drinking. They say it is easy to get alcohol at parties, from friends or at home – with or without permission.
Finally, most of our graduates are just 18 – which means it is against the law for them to drink alcohol.
We all want to keep our graduates safe as they take their next steps into the future. So talk to them today about alcohol.
Roger Hoen is a Board member of the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Michael Langer is the Prevention and Treatment Services Supervisor with the Department of Social and Health Services Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.