Grand Futures: Underage drinking — Know your role |

Grand Futures: Underage drinking — Know your role

It’s that time of year when the sun is warm, the flowers are blooming and we all want to celebrate the beauty of summer in our valley. So many things to do, events to attend, places to go and parties to host, and we encourage you to help your teen celebrate responsibly.

But what is celebrating responsibly? It’s OK to let the kids have a drink or two as long as they relinquish their car keys and stay at your house, right? That’s the responsible thing to do, provide a safe environment, right? Wrong. Don’t fall prey to the common trap of being the “cool parent.”

Not only is this irresponsible, it is also illegal and causes harm. You may have good intentions in providing a safe home with a supervised party that hinders drinking and driving, but good intentions can easily go awry.

This approach does not teach youth how to drink responsibly. Instead, it subjects them to a higher likelihood of becoming an alcoholic at a much earlier age. Plus, it could result in a costly fine or even a felony charge on your record.

Underage drinking causes developmental harm. Instead of protecting teens and their developing brains and teaching them why underage drinking can be harmful, you are communicating the message that this behavior is acceptable. Studies show kids who begin drinking alcohol in their early teens have a greater risk for developing alcoholism more quickly, at a younger age and with more severity — specifically chronic, relapsing alcoholism.

A teen’s brain does not stop developing until their early to mid-20s. During this development, alcohol negatively affects all parts of the brain, including coordination, emotional control, thinking, decision-making, hand-eye movement, speech and memory. According to the National Institute on Health, underage drinkers perform worse in school and have an elevated risk of social problems, depression, suicidal thoughts and violence.

Through a collaboration between the Steamboat Springs Police Department and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, the city of Steamboat Springs passed the social host ordinance in 2009, which holds adults accountable for allowing underage drinking parties in their homes.

The social host ordinance allows police to hold homeowners or hosts, including parents, responsible for underage drinking that occurs on their property or at their party. This is a friendly reminder that the law is still in effect.

While this is a time for celebration, it’s also an opportunity to be a positive role model. So, have fun and enjoy the warmer weather, but protect and educate our youth as well.

Social host ordinance: What you need to know

Knowingly providing private property to underage persons possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages is unlawful and could result in the following.

1st offense: $500 fine

2nd offense: $750 fine

3rd offense: $999 fine

• 24 hours of community service.

• Completion of an alcohol education program.

• Possible jail time determined by the judge.

Additionally, officers can defer to the Colorado state statute for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which is a class four felony and carries with it substantial penalties, such as the following.

• Two to six years imprisonment.

• Fines of $2,000 to $500,000.

• State penalties could be in addition to municipal penalties outlined above.

How to have fun and educate your teen

• Model good behavior that doesn’t include alcohol in celebrations, even for those who are of age. By adults showing that they can have fun without alcohol, teens learn to have a good time and to celebrate in a sober environment

• Give them reasons as to why you won’t be providing alcohol to them and their friends. These can be as simple as “It’s against the law” or “I don’t want to cause you or your friend’s brain damage.”

• Provide something to do beyond just sitting around and chatting with their friends — activities like cornhole or a water balloon fight or croquet. Get creative and let them be silly.

• Keep the lines of communication open between you and your teen. Let them know you’re there for them and open to having tough conversations. Make sure your conversations are factually based and free from judgment.

• Be honest with your teens and give them the facts so they can make educated choices when faced with difficult decisions.

Karli Bockelman is the tri-county coordinator at Grand Futures.

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