Monday, December 1, 2014

Guest Blogger: This Isn't Your Parent's Party

Today, we have a guest post by my good friend, classmate, and colleague in ministry, James (Jim) Hutson! Jim is a father of two adolescents, studying Family Life Ministry at Concordia University. He also is the author of the blog A Modern Day Pilgrim's Journey, an ordained chaplain, and a passionate worker for men's ministry. He recently presented in our Youth Cultures class on the Youth Party Scene, and I asked him if he would be willing to change his presentation into a blog post to share with you. We'd both love to hear your feedback, so read, comment, and check out his blog, as well!

God's Blessings,


This Isn’t Your Parent’s Party!
By James A. Hutson

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  As part of my academic education at Concordia University Ann Arbor for the BA in Family Life (Church Work) minor Men's Ministry, I have been blessed to take an independent study class entitled "FAM431: Youth Culture.”  This is a presentation I gave on the topic, "Youth at Risk:  Current Attractions and Addictions" in which I spoke about the use of alcohol and drugs in the adolescent party scene.   Below is a paper based on the presentation and I hope that you are as alarmed, as a parent, as I was and am.

Back in the day, when I was an adolescent (yes, I once was), the party scene was less about drinking and more about socialization.  Socialization is the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society.[1]  In layman’s terms, socialization is “the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained.” [2]

Today, for the millennial generation, partying isn’t a social exercise anymore.  The average teenager spends over 44.5 hours per week in front of their computer screens…and some of that time is engaged in socialization, not just computer games and cat videos.  This generation is more socially savvy than my generation ever was, in dangerous and unfulfilling ways.  As one Facebooking teen says, “You know your life’s friends better than yourself” and it’s part of being “in the crowd.”[3]  This relatability between today’s adolescents is another topic, in and of itself, but the electronic and multifaceted means by which they engage has become the socialization process for the majority.

So why is The Party still part of our youth’s social scene?

No matter how you view it, the millennial generation has been bereft of leadership and guidance from the generation before it, the Gen-Xers.  I believe this is because when we [the Gen-Xers] rebelled against our parents, the Boomers, we did so with the idea that there was a promised land and we’d find it at the end of our tethers and restraints that we felt our parents kept us on.  Unfortunately, we didn’t, and so we are embroiled in the chaotic blundering in the proverbial desert of our lives, seeking meaning in the rebellions of our youth.  We have, in the words of Chap Clark, corporately abandoned our youth and have left them to ‘figure it out themselves.’  Maybe [it’s] because we don’t want to restrain or inhibit our children as we once felt we were, but whatever the reason, this hands-off [philosophy] has left a generation without a sexual identity that they will use in the social world they are coming to age in.

And it is these teenagers that are partying.

Far beyond the means by which they ‘party’, these adolescents are coming together to party for the sake of community; to belong, to be accepted, and to be loved.  That “mysterious, miraculous, and unfathomable” phenomenon of the human species, community.[4]  Community, too often interchanged with socialization, is the “feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of common attitudes, interests and goals.”[5]  Instead of learning, they are seeking.  And therein lies the dangers of the modern-day party scene of our youth.

“There is no celebration unless we can falsely create one by altering the state of our lives and even our relationships” is the expectation of the youth that are into the party scene, according to Chap Clark.[6]  To reach this ability to transform their lives into a celebratory event, youth use the ‘traditional’ methods involved at parties, alcohol and drugs.  But, they aren’t the drugs you think and the way you think alcohol is consumed.

Simply put, the party scene is about sex; sex seeking love, attachment, value and caring from peers that seek the same thing….unfortunately, in dangerous and disastrous ways.  Instanteous, if temporary, gratification for their basic needs without intimacy.

The dress apparel of the party scene is to dress as slutty as possible, so that you can be a player in the games.  No, I’m not talking about the party favorites of “pin-the-tail” or “poker,” but games like “Two Article Night” and “ABC Night.”  Nights where you can only wear two articles and where you have to use material like duct tape or red solo cups to make an ‘outfit.’  Or “Color Party,” where one wears a corresponding color to the level of their sexual experience and seek out others of either sex, depending on their preference, that has the same level so that you can experience the next level of sex.  The dance floor is no longer for the enjoyment of rhythm and music, but a grounds for the ‘hook-up’ where you basically ‘bump’ into someone else and dance until the evening ‘progresses.’ 

Remember Clark’s description of celebration?  To loosen their inhibitions and fears, adolescents are using the ‘traditional’ party tools in dangerous ways to create an environment where they are not responsible for, or held accountable by their peers for, the actions they engage in.

Drugs and alcohol are altering our adolescents perceptions.

“Pharm Parties” are used to ‘alter their perceptions’ so that the experience can be maximized for effect.  But it isn’t the drugs of the Gen-Xer generation, hard drugs like hash and rock cocaine, but prescription drugs like Oxytocin, Ritalin and other narcotic painkillers and stimulants that alter perception and lower inhibitions.  “Experimentation” is the method of choice for ‘new experiences’ and things like vaping (electronic cigarettes) and “herb” snorting have become equally as dangerous.  Drugs that produce a strong ‘perception-altering’ effect are sought for, but the danger of overdose is overlooked or unrecognized, especially when mixed with alcohol. 

Of course, this leads us to the most recognized and abused substance of any generation’s party scene: alcohol.  The Millennial, being economically savvy and fiscally responsible, has improved upon how alcohol is used in the party scene.  They simply ‘pre-game.’  Pre-gaming is where you “drink with some purpose” (usually to save money, increase the availability of your supply or simply ‘get your buzz on.’  And drinking games are the mainstay of the pre-game festivities; beer pong, quarters, truth or dare that ‘force’ the participants to drink once a condition agreed upon (missing a shot glass, failing to knock down a cup) is reached.  Another ‘traditional’ means of obtaining alcohol for the pre-game or party has developed with the times as well.  The ‘fake id’ can be bulk ordered from China and is 70% undetected…a far cry from trying to convince the clerk the photo is actually of you and not someone else.

Despite the pre-game, party and accessibility of deception for purchase, alcohol consumption is on the decline for the past several years.  Only 3.5% of eighth graders, 12.8% of tenth graders and 26% of high school seniors reported alcohol use in the past month.  I believe it is because they are mixing drugs with alcohol for effect and therefore use less.  What bothered me the most about my research into the alcohol use of millennials was the stat, “3.5% of 8th graders”…middle school children!

So, what are we as parents to do about this?  How should we respond?

As parents.  Responsible, concerned and caring parents.  What is a parent with those characteristics?  An involved one.  A school site listed several ways we can engage this millennial generation in positive and effective ways. 
  1. Be prepared to talk to you teen about the issues; drugs, alcohol and sexual activity.
  2. Communicate!  And make sure the lines of communication stay open and unrestricted.
  3. As corny as it sounds, teach and practice with your teen the art of saying no.  It’s easy, “No.”
  4. Set firm rules, and discuss consequences of violations to those rules.
  5. Be involved, follow up with adult or responsible party about time and location of party.  It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of responsible parenting.
  6. Discuss exit strategy with teen when party is unsafe due to drugs/drinking or sexual activities and use it.
  7. Practice scenarios about what your teen’s response should be to other’s illegal behavior.
  8. Be awake when your adolescent comes home, don’t just say “Hi, glad you’re home safe,” but touch base with them about their experience.  (Remember number 2).
  9. Discuss safety code.  How will your teen let you know they need your help if they are in a position where they cannot clearly state it.

If you are afraid of upsetting the ‘delicate’ balance of your adolescent, remember this…You are the greatest influence on your child. The Bible tells us to ‘raise our children in the way they should go,” and teaching is only part of that process….maintaining the standards and expectations of behavior and responsibility ourselves speaks volumes to our children and help them emulate them on their own.  How will you know you are being effective in the modeling? 
  1. By knowing your child, being involved with them and knowing what constitutes ‘normalcy’ in their world. 
  2. Stay in touch with them and their peers, know their friend’s parents.  Who knows, you might find an ally in this battle for your adolescent’s health and welfare! 
  3. Keep aware of legitimate drugs/alcohol in the house and amounts.  It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a determent of temptation.
    And lastly,
  4. Do not allow any unchaperoned parties (or other gatherings) to be attended.

It isn’t that you don’t trust your child or a matter of thinking that they cannot handle the world around them; it is simply a matter of being a parent to your child and raising them in an environment where they can learn, grow and be healthy in their physical, social, sexual and spiritual identities so that they can raise their children in the manner in which they should go.


[1] Clausen, John A. (ed.) (1968) Socialization and Society.  Little Brown and Company. p5.
[2] Macionis, Gerber.  Sociology.  7th Canadian Ed. (Pearson Canada, 2010) pg. 104.
[3] Charlotte.  New York Times: The Learning Network. Do You Spend Too Much Time on Facebook? Comments section.
[4] Peck, M. Scott PhD. (1998) The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace.  Touchstone, Simon & Schuster Inc.
[5] “Community.” Merriam-Webster.
[6]  Clark, Chap. (2004). Hurt: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers.  Baker Academic.  Grand Rapids, MI.

Resources used, if not footnoted:

Jefferson County School Board. (2014, November 17). Safe and Drug-Free Schools. Retrieved from Jefferson County Public Schools:   
JOIN TOGETHER STAFF. (2005, July 25). Youth Trade Drugs at 'Pharming' Parties. Retrieved from Partnership for a Drug-Free Kids:
Levenson, E., & John, A. (2014, April 9). How the Kids Do It Now: Partying. Retrieved from TheWire.Com: News from the Atlantic:
Nauert PhD, R. (2013, September 4). Partying on Facebook May Spur Teens’ Risky Behavior. Retrieved from 
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014 January).  High School and Youth Trends.  Retrieved from National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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