Prom is this weekend, and your younger cousin who is a senior this year, has been bugging you for weeks to buy alcohol for her and her friends. She has been persuasive and demanding by saying things like, “You drank at your senior prom!” and “We promise we won’t be driving.” You’ve been able to brush her off until right now. You pull up to the local gas station and your cousin is there also. She immediately runs up to you and gives you a handful of cash while saying, “How perfect is this timing? Will you please go in and buy us some booze?”
What would you do in this situation? Do you say no? Do you think of the consequences of buying her alcohol? Do you tell her parents? What if the situation was different, and the kid asking you for alcohol isn’t a relative but a stranger? Would you give the store owner a heads up?
According to a focus group study involving Early County youth this spring, the researcher informed us that these teens “do not perceive any difficulty accessing alcohol.” It was also found that an overwhelming amount of Early County teens get their alcohol from older friends, especially those in their early twenties. We all know the consequences of minors drinking including injuries, vehicle accidents, sexual encounters that are later regretted or unwanted at the time and other consequences. However, do you know the consequences of someone 21 or older providing the alcohol to a minor? The law in Georgia states it is illegal for anyone to knowingly furnish alcohol to a person under 21 and that the person found guilty can be ordered to pay a $750-$1,000 fine and possibly face jail time. If you are ever placed in the situation mentioned above, know that you have the opportunity and power to impact this person in a positive way.
According to the recent focus group results, following are three reasons Early County teens said they drink – and three ways to handle the situation if you’re 21 or older:
First, remember to ask why they need alcohol and…
- If the teen wants alcohol to “have a good time.” Assure them there are many other ways to have a good time without alcohol being involved; offer suggestions or offer to do something with them. In the study, teens also stated the positive influence of older adults and having something to do that doesn’t involve drinking are both important.
- If the teen wants alcohol to “forget about what’s going on at home.”You can talk with them or suggest they talk with a close family member, family friend, clergy, or school counselor about the situation. Offer to take them to talk with someone if needed.
- If the teen wants alcohol because “they need to fit in or feel comfortable around others.”This statement suggests the teen may have the impression alcohol makes one feel happy; help them understand alcohol is classified as a depressant, meaning it can affect your thoughts, feelings, and actions in a negative way. Often, the lack of inhibition alcohol can give is interpreted as giving a “happy or relaxed” feeling when in fact, many times, people say and do things they later regret when they drink alcohol. Helping teens understand they are perfect just the way they are – and find ways to encourage confidence and self-esteem.
While it may feel like you’re being the cool adult to provide alcohol to people under 21 or even as if you’re helping them drink safely by providing drinks and allowing them to stay on your property or in your house, in the long run, you’re missing an opportunity to help a teen learn how to make better choices. If you’d like to learn more about underage drinking, strategies for dealing with adults you know who do provide alcohol to minors, or how to talk to your children about alcohol use, go to EarlyChoices.org or call us at 229.723.5122.
Early Choices, a collective of initiatives, was formed in 2012 through ECLFT and Family Connection (FACES)to address the specific needs, issues and concerns or residents of Early County.