LiveSmart: Graduation Celebrations – Set Expectations, Have Open Conversations

[This article written by William Bean, MS, CASAC Master Counselor, Program Manager of St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center, Saratoga Springs.]

The high school graduation season is upon us again, with expectations of weekends filled with ceremony, laughter and even a few tears. For students, parents and family members alike, graduation promises an emotionally rich and unforgettable experience unlike any other.

In addition to school-sanctioned graduation events and family-friendly celebrations, however, “after-parties” and unsupervised impromptu gatherings abound, creating opportunities for alcohol and drug use, and the increased risk for unintended dangerous (and often tragic) outcomes.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 75 percent of teens consume alcohol at some point during their high school years. So, even if your child is one of the 25 percent who choose not to consume alcohol (or drugs), chances are they will be around others who will be – especially during graduation weekend.

Even those parents and guardians who regularly discuss the topic of alcohol and drug use with their teens should be especially aware during this emotional time. The feelings of youthful invincibility that are prevalent in adolescence are typically heightened around occasions such as graduation. These feelings, mixed with alcohol or drugs, often lead to increased vulnerability to risk, impaired decision-making, and accidents.

For your “pre-celebration conversation,” review the following expectations with your child:

  • Absolutely no drinking and driving.
  • Don’t get in a car with someone who has been drinking.
  • When in the car, wear your seat belt.
  • Have an itinerary. Include the address. Call or text if your itinerary changes.
  • Set personal boundaries, and stick to them.
  • Parents/responsible adults need to be present at any parties you will be attending.
  • Activate the location sharing feature on your cell phone.

And my personal favorites:

  • If you feel uncomfortable, call. We will come get you. Period. Anywhere, anytime, no questions asked.
  • Have fun. We love you.

For adolescents (ages 12-18) with alcohol and substance abuse problems, St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center clinics in Saratoga (518-885-6884) and Latham (518-783-5381) offer a variety of age-appropriate therapeutic and educational services that address the problems teens face with their peers, families and schools.

For more information on St. Peter’s Health Partners’ full spectrum of services for individuals trying to overcome a substance use disorder, please call 518-452-6700, or visit

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