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The 2020 Holiday Season: Alcohol, Covid and Your Teen

With Covid cases spiking and travel curtailed, this year's holiday season will present unique

challenges on many levels. After the past nine months, we all want to return to normalcy, make the holidays as special as we can and let off some steam! And after too many hours of screen time, remote learning, and sports and other extracurricular activities being curtailed, our kids do too. More than usual, they will be itching to get out, have friends over and perhaps partake in holiday partying. Understandably, we will be tempted to indulge them because, well, Covid has been hard on everyone.

When it comes to alcohol, however, parents should continue to stick to their values and rules. Consumption during the pandemic has risen across the nation as many have turned to alcohol as a way to cope with increased stress levels, alleviate boredom and try to instill some fun in their lives. Yet the risks and harms of alcohol, especially binge drinking, are heightened during Covid times. Masks come off, judgment is clouded, social distancing is compromised and caution generally goes out the door. Alcohol is known to weaken immune systems during normal times and these are not normal times. Add to that equation the ubiquitousness of alcohol over the holidays.

Although there have been fewer teen parties during the pandemic, there have been plenty of smaller get-togethers with underage drinking - as well as some larger parties. This is evidenced by the recent school shutdowns at Branson and Marin Catholic after a couple of pretty big ones occurred.

Whatever the scale of the gathering or wherever it occurs, what parents do matters greatly -

whether it's not paying attention to where their kids are going or who they are going out with - or allowing underage alcohol use at parties or gatherings in their homes. It's always hard to adhere to your rules over the holidays. But it's critical during Covid to stand firm with your kids and say "not this time" to situations about which you don't feel comfortable. A little extra parental vigilance will go a long way and could make a huge difference on your family's health and safety.

Parental modeling of your own alcohol use also matters - whether it's drinking too frequently or too much in front of your children, telling stories that glamorize your own teen or college use, or making comments about needing a drink. One of the reasons Marin County's adolescent substance use rates are so high is because adult rates are also among the highest in the state. Whether you model a healthy or unhealthy relationship with alcohol has a big impact on your kids who are watching your every move - and are eager to point out your hypocrisies!

To get the facts and understand the impact of alcohol on adolescents and why parents need to remain vigilant, and for parenting tips to do so, check out these BTI Blogs:

  • Alcohol and Teens

  • Health Effects and Other Risks of Alcohol on Teens

  • Now What? What to Do When Your Teens is Drinking or Using Drugs

  • Good Samaritan Laws and When to Call 911

Finally, regardless of how you parent your own child, we also carry a responsibility for other

youth when they are in our home. Please support one another by not allowing underage drinking and other drug use at parties or gatherings you host. Consider this recent post by Marin County in a social media campaign to make parents aware of Social Host Ordinances (which hold parents legally responsible for underage substance use in their homes): "Your kids and their friends still won't think you are cool. Be a parent not a pal".

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