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No Ka Oi Health

With all of the unprecedented challenges that came with the pandemic, 2021 graduates especially deserve to celebrate making it through a tough senior year. Here are some tips on how to celebrate graduation without underage drinking and without increasing COVID risk, so your teen and their friends can celebrate safely.

First, let’s discuss COVID safety. Since many young people are not yet vaccinated, it’s important to consider what COVID precautions to take. In Hawaii, a lei ceremony is a long-standing tradition to honor graduates. A safer way to keep the tradition alive is by delivering lei to graduates via a drive-by celebration. Potlucks and parties are a main way people have traditionally celebrated graduates, so if you are planning to get together with family or friends, a safer option is to have an outdoor celebration following county guidelines. Potlucks can be replaced with bentos to minimize contact if different families will be attending. Families of the same household can sit together and memories can still be made while protecting the health of your community.

“I enjoy parties, but it’s got to be with my cousins and family, rather than friends and strangers,” said Aubrey Ahana, a sophomore at Kamehameha Schools Maui.

Now let’s discuss protecting youth from underage drinking. If you plan to hold a larger in-person gathering (again, within county guidelines), consider how to keep your kids safe from underage drinking. Underage drinking on Maui is a serious issue. Teens who drink report getting alcohol most often from friends and family. They also report that major problems happen at house parties. In a recent survey of 449 Maui County youth:

• Nearly 50 percent of teens said physical fights happen at house parties where alcohol is accessible.

• 33 percent of teens said they know someone who got arrested at a house party.

• 29 percent of teens know someone who has gotten into a car crash after drinking alcohol.

• 18 percent said they know someone who has been sexually assaulted at a house party.

With graduation season upon us and parties being planned, make sure you and your family keep alcohol away from teens.

Be S.M.A.R.T. and use these five tips:

• Separate alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages into different coolers or choose to have an alcohol-free party.

• Have an adult monitor the alcohol.

• Avoid playing drinking games that promote binge drinking.

• Remember to tell anyone under 21: “Not in my hale!” (no alcohol allowed).

• Keep teens and adults together!

Underage drinking is never safe, even at house parties. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol, and minors can be charged for these offenses.

“If I were a parent or throwing a graduation party, I would just say ‘no alcohol.’ It’s easier to just say it’s an alcohol-free event than to separate coolers,” said Ethan Baysa, a Maui Waena Intermediate student.

Starting in September, adults who let teens drink on their property could also be fined at least $200 through the Maui social host liability ordinance. This social host ordinance will give families an even bigger reason to keep underage drinking from happening in their home. To learn more about the Maui social host ordinance, follow the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth on Instagram @mauicoalitionfordrugfreeyouth and at www.facebook.com/MauiCoalitionforDrugFreeYouth.

Ahana has one piece of advice for parents who might feel they need to plan a big graduation party, which she thinks a lot of teens might agree with: “Just keep it simple. I’d rather just hang out with my family and maybe two best friends than have some crazy party. Quality over quantity.”

* Andrea Snow has a master’s in public health and is a coordinator of the Maui Coalition for Drug-Free Youth at the Hawaii Public Health Institute. She is today’s guest columnist for No Ka Oi Health, which is published monthly by the state Department of Health.

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