Marcus Soler was turning 20, and his mother, Janna Soler, threw him a birthday party. A few friends came over, and by all accounts, Ms. Soler spent the night in her room and took no part in the festivities. But that didn’t stop her from being taken into custody along with her son and his friends when local Friendswood police officers busted what turned out to be an underage drinking party in the early hours of the morning.
Officers noticed something going on in the house when doing rounds early in the morning. When they went to see what was going on, the front door was wide open with drug paraphernalia and alcohol clearly visible. In short order, the Solers and four friends were taken into custody on different charges that ranged from underage drinking to drug possession to interfering with the duties of a public servant (one man attempted to create a distraction to stop one of the officers from getting information on the other guests).
In addition to underage drinking by all but one of the partygoers, including Soler, there were allegedly about 49 Xanax pills in the possession of one attendee as well as crushed-up pills scraped into lines on the table. Soler made it clear that his mother had no idea that there were drugs and alcohol at the party and that he had told her that the event would be free from any substance use and a tame gathering.
When it comes to underage use of drugs and alcohol, should adults be held liable?
Social Hosting Laws
In a number of communities across Texas and around the country, there are social hosting laws in place. These laws hold any legal adult responsible for the drinking and drug use of minors in their home as well as for their behaviors after they leave the home while they are under the influence. The specifics of these laws vary from location to location, but the general intent is clear: Underage drinking and drug use are hazardous under any circumstance, supervised or not.
Some parents believe that it is far safer for their kids if they allow them to drink at home. They believe that if they, the parents, are there to keep an eye on things then maybe the kids will get into less trouble and avoid the risk of getting behind the wheel while under the influence. Unfortunately, loose boundaries send a number of messages that can get a young person into trouble in the long wrong. Potential problems associated with allowing kids to drink at home include the following:
- Because it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to drink, young people get the idea that breaking rules at personal discretion is okay. They begin to apply this thinking to other aspects of life, like the rule of drinking only at home.
- Use of drugs by anyone is also illegal. If parents engage in this behavior or allow kids to do so, it reinforces the idea that laws are suggestions rather than rules.
- When kids have friends over who are also underage and drink, there are a number of complications. One of which is that, if those friends leave the premises and get into trouble after they go (e.g., a run-in with law enforcement, a physical altercation, driving under the influence, car accident, etc.), the adults who gave them alcohol may be liable for their choices.
- When parents are friends with their kids rather than authority figures, kids may not feel they can depend on their parents for true guidance, may begin to hide other things, and/or may not respect other rules in the house or accept parents’ words as boundaries.
Changes at Home
If you are currently allowing your kids to drink at home or have allowed it in the past, it can be difficult to create new boundaries for everyone’s protection, but it is absolutely necessary. Firm boundaries provide guidelines for kids as they learn how to make responsible choices in their lives and set parents up as a resource for solid, helpful information and assistance.
Boundaries come with consequences, and these are just as important for parents working to create a positive support system at home. Make the consequences that will occur if boundaries are crossed clear in advance and then follow through as needed. If it becomes evident that your child is not following the rules and is at risk, do not wait to intervene and connect them with treatment resources that can help them get back on track.