Prom after parties and safety | Dear YFS column

Dear YFS answers community questions (submitted and posed).

  • Saturday, May 18, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

Dear YFS,

I’m a parent of a senior who hopes to go a rental home at Suncadia for the prom “after party” with a large group of friends. I heard this was a tradition for some Mercer Island teens, but it feels difficult for us as parents to say “No.” I think an event of this magnitude is unnecessary and worry about late-night driving and drinking that will inevitably happen at the unchaperoned event. My daughter says, “this is a tradition, Mom,” but I am sure there must be some safer, closer alternatives.

How can we talk about changing traditions that pose risks for our kids, and how do we change the culture in our community so parents don’t feel compelled to support them? I am hoping there does not have to be a tragedy to bring this conversation into the open.


Dear WP,

You’ve captured the worries faced each year by a relatively small group of Island parents. Off-island after parties are not an all-Island tradition, but they do happen among a minority of graduates. You are correct — these parties pose many risks. Parents need to weigh the pros/cons against, perhaps, insisting on a safer, but less cool, alternative. Yes, it is okay to say “No.”

Alcohol and drug use is often a key motivation behind destination parties. In addition to the illegality, consider that youth who use alcohol are also at risk for unwanted or unprotected sex, aggression, car crashes and alcohol poisoning. Marijuana and other drug use are especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol as well. In terms of intoxication, think 2+2=6.

Some youth get in trouble when they think they have tolerance to alcohol then drink in a new location and become dangerously impaired on the same amount they usually drink. This is due to the expectancy effect where the body anticipates intoxication based on familiar surroundings and can process alcohol more effectively — when youth “surprise” their systems and drink heavily in a novel location, they get drunker faster. This is one reason there are so many cases of alcohol poisoning the freshman year of college.

There are also risks to the adults renting the venue and helping with arrangements. Providing or allowing alcohol to be consumed by a minor is a crime. Consider also the consequences for accidents, personal injury and damage to the rental.

So, should you forbid it, or perhaps insist on some “harm reduction” strategies? At similar events in the past, parents themselves have chaperoned the event (on site) and insisted on safe behaviors.

Parents can contract with their grads for safe behavior as well. While 40-60 seniors may leave the prom early for a rental house, clearly most seniors are doing something else— and this is a good reminder for your grad.

All parents should remind youth of the Good Samaritan laws in effect for minors just in case someone is in distress.

I suggest the site for ideas for parents and safety around substances and youth.

Helping your grad put an exclamation point on their high school career is also very important. Typically, this involves their social group, so now is a good time to cash-in on those relationships you have with other parents to brainstorm ideas. These discussions, armed with good information, are how the culture can start to change. At YFS we follow best practice guidelines and suggest parents should hold a firm line with any drugs and alcohol for minors — as the risks more than likely outweigh the reward.

Congratulations and best of luck to both of you in your next chapter in life.

Cindy Goodwin is the director of Mercer Island Youth and Family Services. The advice offered by YFS is intended for informational purposes only and to guide you in seeking further resources if needed. The answers to questions are not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, psychological, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice. If you have a question you would like to ask Cindy to answer in this column, or if you need additional professional resources, email

More in Opinion

Legislature: History, investigations and new laws

The 2019 session of the Legislature included controversy, compromise, surprise, new law and more.

Governor’s watch: timing is everything

Inslee, possible candidates eye 2020 race

Closing the margins | Windows and Mirrors

How a program at Mercer Island High School is helping students affect social change.

Prom after parties and safety | Dear YFS column

Dear YFS answers community questions (submitted and posed).

Best Buddies include everyone | Windows and Mirrors

North Creek’s new club this year works to promote inclusion and helps students make friends and connections.

Building a community of belonging | Windows and Mirrors

LWTech is putting in the work to ensure employees feel welcomed on campus.

Holy Week is a living icon | On Faith

Icons serve as glimpses of greater purpose.

What’s in a name? | Guest opinion

Why Israel and Palestine are not interchangeable names.

Libraries are places of connection and community pride | Library column

Written by Lisa Rosenblum, the director of the King County Library System.

Take ‘eating clean’ to a whole new level

Avoid foods made with chemicals, support natural detox.

Are sheriffs above the law?

Washington voters have spoken on I-1639. Sheriffs need to set the stage to follow their oath of office - and enforce the law.

The difficulty of aging in place | Windows and Mirrors

Living on a fixed income in an increasingly expensive region is not easy.