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Back-to-School Rx: Solutions to Your Problems


Teens at Field Party

Last fall, high school seniors in my town were caught throwing "field parties," which involved lots of drinking. Now that my son is entering 12th grade, what should I say to him about these events?

Unfortunately, these gatherings—where teens meet at a secluded outdoor spot, avoiding parents and police, to get drunk—are pretty common. Newspapers are filled with reports of tragedies that result from this type of party, says Sharon Levy, M.D., director of the adolescent medical substance abuse program at the Children's Hospital of Boston. "Field parties tend to end badly because when teens drink, they're more likely than adults to do something risky like drive a car."

As part of your ongoing dialogue about alcohol, remind your son of the dangers of drinking, emphasizing that just one reckless act can end with dire consequences, including death. Tell him you know field parties exist and that you expect him not to attend them. Set very clear boundaries: "If you drink, I'll take away your driving privileges and you'll be grounded for a month. No exceptions." Also consider contacting the parents of your son's friends to make a no-go pact; your kid will be less tempted to go to an alcohol-fueled party if his buddies won't be there.

Despite your best efforts, your teen may still decide to drink. According to national surveys, by senior year nearly 80% of high school students have tried alcohol. So although you need to make it clear that you will not tolerate underage consumption, it's important to include a caveat: "If you do decide to drink, don't get behind the wheel and don't take a ride from a friend. Call home. We'll come to get you, anytime, anywhere, no questions."