New Friends and Old Pals: How to Handle & Interact with Your Teen’s Friends (Even the “Bad” Ones) Pt.1

Friends.

Pals. Buddies. Companions. Amigos. Besties and BFFs.

Whatever you call them, friends are one of the most important aspects of many people’s lives. They’re a source of fun, trust, and support, people to talk and listen to, and who can tremendously shape our beliefs, interests, and behaviors.

This is especially true for teenagers.

Teens are still developing mentally, emotionally, physically, and socially, still figuring out the world and their place in it. While parents typically remain the primary influence on their kid, the time adolescents spend with peers and the value they place in them grow substantially during the teenage years (who else are they going to send a texting rant to upon storming out of the room, after all?).

Because of the significant role friends play in teens’ lives, parents should always pay attention to with whom their child spends her time.

For although good behavior and attitudes can spread through a peer group, so too can unsafe or unhealthy actions like underage drinking, drug use, and more. Whole friend groups may turn to risky behaviors together as they get older, or these activities may be introduced by one or more individuals to the rest of the group that previously had no inclination toward them.

Sudden changes in friendships, in particular, might suggest substance abuse. Just as getting involved with alcohol or drugs often causes teens to lose interest in their hobbies, school, work, and family, they might also unexpectedly stop hanging out with their usual friends.

At the same time, teens may suddenly start hanging out with new people who share the same substance-using interests. These new friends might seem out-of-character for your teen to bond with and don’t seem to have much in common with your child otherwise.

Of course, we are dealing with teenagers here. Friendships do change, evolve, and sometimes end, with new relationships waiting to blossom right around the corner—especially in the teenage world of hormones and high school drama.

There are a thousand reasons why your teen might end a friendship or start a new one, and substance use is only one of them. Don’t automatically assume your teen is snorting coke just because she no longer rides bikes with Susie from 6th grade.

Instead, simply keep an eye on your teen’s friendships while looking out for other personality, behavior, or physical developments that signal possible drug use. Only when enough of these signs couple together should you seriously investigate the problem further and intervene if alcohol or drug use is occurring.

This article will cover how to best interact with your teen’s friends and approach and monitor his relationships, both new and old.

The first strategy is also the most obvious: Know who your kid’s friends are!

Ask your teen who he hangs out with. What are their names, what are they like? How did he meet them?

Then, at the first available opportunity you see these friends in real life, go over and introduce yourself. Shake hands. Even if it’s a pal your teen has had for a long time, whom you’ve kind of-sort of seen around the house for years but never formally met, make the next time you see her finally be that day.

Even better, take some time to talk to them. Figure out for yourself what the people who play such an important role in your teen’s life are like. Are they polite? Shy? Outgoing? Are they open to meeting and talking with you or counting down the seconds until you go away?

From that initial introduction on, try to chit chat for at least a little bit each time you see them. Ask about their hobbies, how school is going, if they have any fun vacations planned with their families—anything really, whatever topics that genuinely intrigue you, and help you get to know them as a person (this may also inform you more on what your teen is like, as friends often share interests and personality traits).

Over time, you’ll build your own sense of connection or relationship with each friend.

Try to be the parent your teen’s friends want to talk to. You hope your own child enjoys conversing with you and will seek you out for guidance, right? If you can act as this same source of help and advice for his buddies, that’s all the better.

Maybe they don’t have a strong relationship with their parents or another trusted adult in their lives that they can open up to or ask for help when they are embarrassed or afraid of getting in trouble. You can be that vital resource.

Offer to listen to thoughts, stories, and problems. Respond with understanding and honesty. Give advice if they seek it but also know that sometimes teenagers just need somebody to listen when they express themselves.

It is also a good idea early on to exchange phone numbers with your teen’s friends. That way you can still reach your kid despite her rushing out the door to meet a buddy, her phone down to 2% and dwindling fast. If ever for some reason your teen doesn’t or can’t respond to your calls or texts, you still have a way to make sure she is safe by communicating with her friends.

On the flip side, swapping contact information gives your teen and her friends another means to contact you. Perhaps your teen needs to update you on her plans while she is out, but her phone died, and she doesn’t know your number by heart (she should, of course, but when’s the last time a teenager memorized a number after plugging it into her contacts?). Now, however, because her friend also has your number, she can easily reach you.

In case of more dire situations, exchanging contact numbers is increasingly important. Say your teen binge drinks at a party and exhibits signs of possible alcohol poisoning, worrying his friends. Yet your teen refuses to call you for help or give up his phone for others to do so. Luckily, his buddies don’t need his phone to call you for help and explain what is going on (upon which you should tell them to call 911).

Friends might also reach out to you in situations that don’t even involve your teen, yet they require your help. One example is if a friend becomes intoxicated while out and cannot drive home. He thankfully recognizes that he should not get behind the wheel but is too scared or embarrassed to call his parents. Since you are a responsible adult he trusts (because you took the time to get to know him and build a relationship), he calls you for a ride.

Or perhaps he isn’t drunk but simply at a party or other environment he feels uncomfortable without a safe way to leave. In any case, you are able to remove the teen from a potentially dangerous situation, which could have jeopardized his safety or the safety of others. Even though your child might not be a part of the situation at all, helping your teen’s friend is the right, moral thing to do, and you should be proud that he admires you enough to reach out.

When you pick up your teen’s pal, you might feel angry and want to scold him, just as if it was your own kid. However, remember and implement our previous tips on picking up an inebriated teenager: Acknowledge you are grateful he asked for help and save the lecture or yelling. Your job is simply to get him home.

Remember that being the trusted, possibly even “cool” parent does not mean you are bound to secrecy regarding the situation. You are still an adult, after all, and must inform the friend’s parents of what happened. The friend might not have originally called his parents, but they need to know.

Certainly, you’ll have that chance when you knock on their door late at night carrying their drunken teen. If, however, you had to bring him to your home to stay with your teen for some reason—perhaps the parents are out of town—make sure to call them as soon as possible to let them know their child is safe and with you.

Give all the details you know about the situation and remind the parents that their kid made the smart choice of calling for help and that it is probably best to hold off on talking to their teen until he is sober.

Unsure of where your kid’s friend lives? Don’t know his parent’s phone numbers?

Of course, if the friend is coherent enough you can get this information from him, but he might not be if he is drunk or high.

And, sure, your teen may have swapped numbers with his folks (especially if they also read this article!), but maybe not. Or maybe your teen is at her grandparents’ house, which doesn’t receive much phone service, or is otherwise unreachable.

That’s why, with both your teen’s old pals and new, try to build some connection (or at least facial recognition) with her friend’s parents—ideally, before the friend is passed out in your passenger seat.

Just as you should meet your kid’s buddies, so too should you introduce yourself to parents at the first opportunity. Swap phone numbers. Small talk if there’s time.

Admittedly, a face to face meeting might be a tad difficult to come by once teenagers get their licenses and start driving themselves places, but try your best.

Perhaps make an excuse to drop off your teen at a friend’s house instead of her driving on her own one day. Or you can always take the direct approach and simply ask to meet a friend’s parents or invite the family over to dinner.

Getting to know friends’ parents will better keep teens of both families safe and show you even more what your teen’s pals are like. You might even make some friends yourself.

*          *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 where we will discuss interacting with friends you don’t like, ways to encourage your teen to end/limit a caustic friendship, knowing and checking up on your teen’s plans with friends, and more. 

Pictures From

Group of Girls: From db Photography | Demi-Brooke at https://www.flickr.com/photos/demibrooke/2577242406

Women Drinking: From https://pixabay.com/p-1173651/?no_redirect

Girls Smoking Pot in the Woods: From St. Gil, Marc, 1924-1992, Photographer (NARA record: 8464473) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shaking Hands: From Lucas (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Teen and Man Shake Hands: From https://pixabay.com/en/men-shaking-hands-hands-shaking-950915/

Woman and Teen Talk Outside: By John Benson at www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson

Exchanging Numbers with Teen: From Dave Proffer at https://www.flickr.com/photos/deepphoto/3939213937

Passed Out Woman: From Newtown Graffiti at https://www.flickr.com/photos/newtown_grafitti/7982820624

Talking on the Phone: From https://pixabay.com/p-1582238/?no_redirect

Getting into Car: From Lou at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wolfm49/1015256548

Women Talking: From https://pixabay.com/en/women-beautiful-talking-2079133/

Looking at a Map: From Victor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/v1ctor/4753184912

Adult Female Friends: From Lori at https://www.flickr.com/photos/lolololori/2581438627

 

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 2)

Party on, Wayne. Party on, Gar—

Hold it right there.

Before anyone does any partying, parents need our remaining tips. With movies, TV, music, and more often emphasizing alcohol and drug-fueled excess as the central theme of every big get together, it’s understandable for parents to be nervous when their teen mentions a party next weekend.

We’ve already covered gathering info on the party, communicating with other parents, and sitting your teen down for a serious talk before the party even begins. But what else can you do to protect your child while still allowing her to go out and have a good time?

#4 Safety Must Be the Number One Priority

safety-first

While a teen’s primary objective for a party is fun, yours must always be safety.

First, remember you have the ultimate say in whether you allow your teen to go to any particular party. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. While this will very likely be an unpopular decision with your teen, as a parent you sometimes have to make hard choices when looking out for your child’s well-being.

Once you permit your teen to go, one of the most important safety precautions you need to observe is ensuring safe transportation to and from the party. Find out how your kid intends to get there.

Walk? Get a ride? Drive herself? Each entails potential dangers against which you should prepare.

walking-454543_1920For instance, we all want to save gas and should do our best to go green. If the party isn’t too far away, your teen might be thinking, “Sweet, I can just walk there” (or bike, skateboard, etc.). And though this health-conscious, environmentally friendly decision automatically seems like the best choice, there are certain safety considerations to bear in mind:

  • Is the neighborhood/general area safe to walk around at night?
  • Will your teen’s route be well lit?
  • Does she have to travel alongside busy streets or roads that have little to no shoulder?
  • Will she be traveling alone or with friends?pedestrian-925850_1920

Depending on the answers to these questions, driving might be the better option after all. Even if walking is deemed safe enough, still remind your teen to travel in groups, stay in well-lit areas, and be careful of hazardous roadways.

Driving, of course, poses its own dangers, especially if alcohol is even remotely involved. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers and one third of all these driving fatalities are alcohol-related.1 In surveys reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten teens in high school drinks and drives.2

teen-driverRegardless if your teen is the driver or a passenger in a carpool, you absolutely must make sure she understands to never get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Even if your teen’s friend has told her he will be the designated driver and abstain from booze during the party, it’s vital she sees him keep that promise and find a new safe ride if he doesn’t.

Too often teenagers will get in a car with an impaired driver or try to drive themselves after drinking in order to get home and not get in trouble for staying out too late. Since your person-woman-apple-iphonechild’s safety is your first and foremost concern, tell her that she can—in any condition, at any time of night—always call or text you for help.

No matter whether your teen spotted her supposed DD taking shots or is herself intoxicated and unable to drive, assure her that you care more about her well-being than getting her in trouble. You never want her to put herself even greater danger because she feared reaching out to you.

questions-1014060_1920One approach to this that will help encourage your teen to contact you when needed is to implement a “No Questions Asked” rule. If she calls saying she has drank and cannot drive, your reaction might be to yell, get angry, or ask how she let herself fall into this mess.

But remember, her safety is your top priority. If you want her to call for your help, you need to create an environment where she won’t be afraid to ask for it.

When you pick her up from the party, don’t drill her with questions or begin (heatedly) lecturing. Instead, tell her you are happy and thankful she reached out. Remind her that doing so was the smart, right decision, even though it was probably hard to do. If you don’t think you’ll be able to speak without losing your cool, just stay quiet. Sit back. Listen.

trafficjamfrustration

Following up with your teen on the night’s events and the choices she made, however, is crucial. Find out what happened and go over what she should have done differently during the party. Give out suitable consequences but take that she did the right thing by calling rather than try to lie and sneak around into consideration.

Just not tonight. Tonight is about getting her home safely.

#5 See Your Teen Home

In a newsflash that will surprise no one, parties tend to go late into the night. That said, for those of you that hit the pillow face first before 9:30, this next tip might be a bit of a challenge. But if you’re a Night Owl, or can at least pretend to be one for an evening, try it out.

coming-homeStay up and see your teen come home. Depending on when you set curfew, it might be tough, but this tip will accomplish two worthwhile goals.

1).  For your own peace of mind, you can go to bed knowing that your child is safe and sound for the night. Letting him go to a party is a potentially stressful experience, but you now can rest easy.

2). Staying up allows you to see whether he followed through on his curfew and, especially if you were suspicious, examine his physical condition. Verify with your own eyes whether he drank or did drugs.

Be casual while you observe. The last thing you want to do isdetective-1424831_1280 seem like you’re purely inspecting your teen to get him in trouble or act like you distrust him. Teens hate that. Talk to him as you normally would (it’s not an interrogation). Tell him you’re glad he is home and ask if he had fun.

As you do, check for some basic signs of alcohol and drug use:

  • Is your teen stumbling through the door?
  • Does his breath or clothes smell like smoke or booze?
  • Are his eyes red, dilated, or unable to focus?
  • Can he follow the conversation?
  • Is he slurring his words or speaking abnormally loud?

If your teen has indeed been drinking or taking drugs, again, yelling-manas in Tip #4, you may get angry and want to yell.

But is shouting at a drunken teenager really going to convince him to make better choices in the future? Will he even comprehend what you’re saying?

It is essential that you have a serious conversation with your teen and determine appropriate punishments. Both, however, will be more effective in the morning when your teen is sober and coherent.

silhouette-1082129_1280

Parties can be a lot of things.

Fun. Scary. Exciting. Stressful. Stress-relieving. Casual. Wild. Memorable. And that’s for both the teenage party-goers and the parents waiting at home.

But so long as you talk early and often with your teen, communicate with other parents, and always place your child’s safety as your top priority, you can make sure the party is memorable for all the right reasons.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 1 of our first three tips for when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Program Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Safety First: From Matt Crampton at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattcrampton/3249191779

Walking Shoes: From https://pixabay.com/p-454543/?no_redirect

Walking at Night: From https://pixabay.com/p-925850/?no_redirect

Teen Driving: From State Farm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/7838240744

Teen Girl Texting: From https://pixabay.com/en/smartphone-woman-girl-iphone-569076/

Questions: From https://pixabay.com/p-1014060/?no_redirect

Stressed Driver: From Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sneaking In: From Marcel Oosterwijk at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wackelijmrooster/3177929150

Inspector Cartoon: From https://pixabay.com/en/detective-searching-man-search-1424831/

Yelling Man: From Paul Cross at https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499

Sunset Talk: From https://pixabay.com/p-1082129/?no_redirect

Works Cited

  1. Stim, Attorney By Rich. “Teen Drunk Driving & Underage DUIs: The Sobering Facts.” Drivinglaws.org. http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/dui-basics/the-sobering-facts-underage-duis.htm. N.p., n.d.
  1. “Teen Drinking and Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/teendrinkinganddriving/. 2012.

5 Helpful Tips for Parents When Your Teen Goes to a Party (Pt. 1)

The Adicts at SO36. Kreuzberg-Berlin

Parties.

From Halloween celebrations to Girls Night sleepovers, poolside bashes to fancy dress-up jamborees, parties come in all shapes and sizes, ranging in activities, occasion, location, and attendees. In one form or another, parties are likely to be a part of your child’s teenage experience.

They can be an important setting for your teen’s growth, an opportunity to make new friends, learn to be more comfortable in large groups, and develop vital social skills needed for life as an adult. Not to mention they can be a lot of fun.

flip-cupHowever, some parties are also a place of alcohol, drugs, and risky sexual behavior. It’s not difficult to think of a wild, toga-clad John Belushi in Animal House or the characters of American Pie and Superbad desperate to drunkenly get laid at the End of the Year Party or a dozen other pop culture examples that glamorize high school and college parties as consequence-free nights of intoxicated outrageousness. Just about every teen movie depicts all parties as having lots of booze and zero supervision—even if that doesn’t reflect reality.

With all this in mind, it can be nerve-racking as a parent to allow your kid to go to a party, whether it’s their first one or their hundredth. This article will discuss steps you should take when your teen goes to a party that will help keep him or her safe.

#1 Start with the Basics
calendar-819617_1280

This might seem simple, but it’s all too important.

Who, what, when, where? Heck, add the why in there too (Is there a specific reason the party is this weekend? Parents out of town or something like that?).

Always know information such as the party’s address/location, start and end times, and who is throwing the party. Who all is going for that matter? Just some close friends or practically the whole student body? And the kicker: Will the parent’s be home?

hanging-not-drinking

Set a curfew and make sure your teen knows it. Also establish rules on whether or not he’s allowed to go other places during the night—a different party, a friend’s house, maybe a fast food joint.

Depending on your child and the level of trustworthiness and integrity he generally upholds, allowing a little bit of freedom in these matters might prove beneficial.

Bouncing around to different places? Hcall-parent-for-helpave him send a text updating you each time his plans change. Realizes he’ll be out later than he initially thought? That’s fine, so long as he calls to let you know.

Again, not every teen can handle this level of autonomy, and you will need to ensure that this policy is not taken advantage of, but for teens that are up to the challenge, showing that you have faith in them will encourage them to prove that your trust is not unfounded.

#2 Use the International Parent-to-Parent Communication Network

Okay, so maybe there isn’t a global parental communication system, but talking to other parents the old-fashioned way about the upcoming party is still a good idea.

First of all, other parents can be an invaluable source for getting the information in Tip #1 if you don’t learn it from your teen.

conversation-799448_1280

Reach out to parents of other teens that are attending as well as the parents of the party’s host.  If you don’t currently have their contact information it can be a little more difficult than the days of looking up a family’s home number in the phone book, but there are other methods.

Of course, simply askiknock-on-doorng your teen is the first and easiest step. Or ask your teen’s friends next time you see them for that matter. In addition, you can always do a little Facebook stalking, ahem, research, to find and message parents online. Finally, you can use the direct approach and knock on their door for the ol’ face to face (again, their address will have to be something you ask your teen or teen’s friend if you’ve never dropped her off or otherwise know where their home is).

When you do get a hold of other parents, share what you know about the party with each other and take note of any discrepancies you discover from what you have heard from your respective kids. Indication that your teens are lying or hiding things is a sign that the party may not be a good idea.

For that matter, check that the host’s parents are aware there even is a party. They might be surprised to learn that their teen has such plans while they’re on their weekend get away.

One key element to discuss with other parents is whether or not there will be booze-presentalcohol. Even if only one teen shares this with her parents, inter-parent communication will ensure no one is left in the dark about this important fact.

Furthermore, don’t assume there won’t be alcohol simply because parents will be home. Sure, they might physically be in the house, but do they plan on actually supervising or at least checking in on the party periodically? How will they handle the situation if some of the guests sneak in booze or other drugs?

cartoon-boozeMoreover, some parents (incorrectly) believe that it is safe for teenagers to have alcohol if they are around and won’t care if it is at the party. Despite alcohol’s effects on the developing brain and studies that show that minors who are supplied alcohol by their parents are actually at increased risk for continued drinking in their teenage years and problem drinking later in life,1 some parents will even provide booze themselves.

#3 The Birds and the Bees and the Booze and the Weed

Whether you know there will be alcoholic drinks or not, a party right around the corner is a perfect occasion to have a serious conversation with your teen about alcohol, drugs, sex, and/or whatever other precarious subject he may be in need of.

serious-talkYep, that’s right. It’s awkward talk time.

Well, hopefully it won’t be too bad. And even if it is uncomfortable for you, him, or the both of you, it’s necessary to push through the awkwardness. These conversations are important, and, luckily, the longer you talk—not to mention the more often you have these talks in general—the easier and more natural things will become.

As you prepare for a conversation—and it will certainly go better if you prepare at least a general idea of what you want to say—keep these points in mind.

disapproveDon’t assume your teen already knows your exact stance on the subject matter. Make sure he knows by explicitly telling him what you do and don’t approve. Set ground rules. Teens that know their parents would disapprove of them drinking are 80% less likely to drink.2

Go above and beyond simply stating that you don’t want him to drink. Ask your teen what he’ll do if there is alcohol, pot, or other drug use going on. Together, brainstorm and discuss strategies to turn down a drink. Simply saying from the outset that he will abstain from drugs and alcohol is great, but it might be hard to follow through once surrounded by the peer pressure of a party environment. Knowing and practicing specific ways to say no will make it immensely easier to do so.

*         *          *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for Part 2 on our remaining tips on when your teen goes to a party!

You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or you don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.

Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Programs Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.

Pictures From

Dance Party: From Montecruz Foto at www.flickr.com/photos/28328732@N00/5807760586

Drinking Games: From stangls at https://www.flickr.com/photos/8068440@N08/509538615

Calendar: From https://pixabay.com/p-819617/?no_redirect

Backyard Party: From brad_bechtel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wellvis/1262802262

Young Girl Texting: From Carissa Rogers at www.flickr.com/photos/goodncrazy

Silhouettes Talking: From https://pixabay.com/p-799448/?no_redirect

Knock on Door: From Eden, Janine and Jim at https://www.flickr.com/photos/edenpictures/6247800223

Girls Drinking: From Incase at https://www.flickr.com/photos/goincase/5143421728

Old Cartoon: From Warner Bros. (https://archive.org/details/TheBoozeHangsHigh) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Serious Conversation: From University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment’s photostream at https://www.flickr.com/photos/snre/6721655935

Disapproval: From hobvias sudoneighm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/striatic/2191404675

Works Cited

  1. Feliz, By Josie. “Myths Debunked: Underage Drinking of Alcohol at Home Leads to Real Consequences for Both Parents and Teens.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/newsroom/myths-debunked-underage-drinking-of-alcohol-at-home-leads-to-real-consequences-for-both-parents-and-teens/. N.p., n.d.
  1. Staff, By Join Together. “Parents Influence Teens’ Drinking Decisions: Survey.” Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/parents-influence-teens-drinking-decisions-survey/. N.p., n.d.

It’s Called Alcohol POISONING for a Reason

Carson Starkey always believed the world was full of unlimited possibilities. And throughout his life, he proved it.

He played on his high school’s tennis, cross-country, and lacrosse teams and competed in cycling tournaments up to the international level, all while graduating in the top ten percent of his class at Stephen F. Austin High School. Carson loved the outdoors and frequently volunteered his time to projects such as building hiking and biking trails. He could get along with people of all ages and held tight relationships with both friends and family.

A passion for architecture led Carson from Austin, sigma alphaTexas all the way to Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he majored in architectural engineering. During his first quarter he pledged to Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a move that surprised his family, who did not think he would join Greek life.

On December 1, 2008, the fraternity held its traditional “Brown Bag Night,” where Carson and the other pledges were each given a bag full of a variety of alcohol and told to finish it all before midnight. In just twenty minutes, Carson emptied his bag of two 24 ounce Steel Reserve beers, a 16 ounce Sparks alcoholic energy drink, and a fifth of rum split between him and another person. Pledges additionally passed around a bottle of Everclear.

People noticed Carson drooling, his eyes gaining a glazed look, and his body going limp, before he passed out entirely. It was later discovered that his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.4.

Some of the fraternity members brought Carson to a car to take him to a hospital but ultimately changed their minds out of fear of placing themselves and their chapter in trouble. Instead, they moved Carson back inside the house and onto a dirty mattress with a trash can nearby, leaving him alone and unmonitored the rest of the night.

Carson never woke up.

The next day, Carson’s mother Julia dialed back a missed call from earlier that morning. The San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office answered.

That was how the Starkey’s learned of their son’s death via alcohol poisoning.

What is Alcohol Poisoning

Despite its availability and popularity, alcohol is a known toxin. The human body can only process alcohol so fast—approximately one drink per hour. Any more, and the alcohol will enter the bloodstream quicker than the body can metabolize it, which leads to a person being intoxicated (see toxic is even right there in one of the most common synonyms for drunk!).

When a person drinks far more than his or her body’s threshold, such as when binge drinking, he or she risks alcohol slowing down vital bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and gag reflex. The loss or impairment of these functions can lead to choking, hypothermia, heart irregularity, organ failure, and more, all of which—as in the terrifyingly sad case of Carson Starkey—can lead to death. Survivors may suffer from irreversible brain damage.

Every year approximately 4,300 teens and young adults die from alcohol poisoning. Six people (of all ages) are killed by it every day in the United States alone.

amy winehouseSix people. Every day.

In 2011, Grammy award-winning singer Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning after a session of binge drinking depressed her respiratory system. Country musician Keith Whitley was similarly found dead with a BAC of 0.47. Bon Scott, the original vocalist of the rock band AC/DC, choked to death on his own vomit because booze had shut down his gag reflex. His friend had left him in his car that night to “sleep it off.”

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

If you ever drink or plan to be in a situation around drinkers, it’s crucial you know the signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do. Some basic indicators of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Slow, shallow, or otherwise irregular breathingpassed out girls
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion or if the person seems to be in a semi-conscious stupor
  • Skin that feels cold or clammy or has turned pale or bluish
  • Eyes that have dark circles underneath or appear sunken
  • Unconsciousness

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of a fatal dose of alcohol, and immediate action must be taken.

What To Do

Don’t ignore the problem or think the person simply needs to sleep it off. In fact, his condition will grow worse even as he sleeps, because the alcohol will continue to be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. As the friends of Carson Starkey, Bon Scott, and countless other victims have learned, leaving a person to sleep it off could mean he’ll never wake up.

call for helpRather, as soon as you observe any of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning call 911. Don’t wait just a little bit longer to see if the person’s state will improve; his condition is more likely to worsen over time, not get better.

While you wait for help, stay with the person and do your best to keep them calm, still, and comfortable. Monitor his breathing and heartbeat.

Now is not the time for you or anyone else to lecture “I told you you shouldn’t have drank so much,” or make jokes about him “being a lightweight.” If he is even able to comprehend what you are saying, it may very well make him angry and attempt to run away, drink more, fight somebody, or do something else equally stupid and dangerous.

If the intoxicated person lies down you absolutely must ensure he is not on his back or stomach. These positions make it very easy for someone to choke and asphyxiate on his own vomit.

Instead, lay him down on his side. If you need to roll him over to this position, use the Bacchus Maneuver (as demonstrated in this video):

But What If I Get in Trouble?

If the fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon hadn’t stopped to think about this question, Carson Starkey might still be alive.

Police_LineShould someone display signs of alcohol poisoning, you have both a moral and legal responsibility to get her immediate medical attention. Even if you are unsure of her condition, call 911 right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when a person’s life is on the line.

Still, countless cases of alcohol-related emergencies (including but not limited to alcohol poisoning) go unreported every year because people, particularly minors, are afraid of getting in trouble for drinking. For example, in a Cornell University study 19% of college students reported being in an alcohol-related situation where they should have called for help, but only 4% did.

First of all, the consequences for possessing or consuming alcohol as a minor or furnishing alcohol to a minor are nothing compared to the criminal negligence, manslaughter, and/or other severe charges a person may face if somebody dies from alcohol poisoning, and she did nothing to prevent it.

Second, in order to encourage underage drinkers to call for help when it is needed, many states, including California, have enacted Medical Amnesty laws. Under this legislation, if an intoxicated minor calls 911 for herself or another person—and stays with the person in the case of the latter—she is guaranteed protection from criminal prosecution.

Worried about how your friend will react to you calling 911 on her behalf? Don’t be.

If any sane, logical person wakes up in a hospital bed and hospital bedlearns she was treated for a potentially life-threatening condition, the last thing she’ll do is bust your chops for ruining her night at a party. Reaching out for help is not snitching or being a tattle tale—it’s looking out for other people. It shows you have their back and care more about them than about keeping the party going or getting judged for “worrying too much.” It’s that very worry that may save your friend’s life.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious and rampant issue. Knowing the signs and being brave enough to take action can mean the difference between life and death.

body bag

*        *        *

By Tyler Wroblewski

For more on Carson’s story please visit awareawakealive.org

Before your child goes to a party, make sure to have a serious conversation about alcohol and other drugs. Ask what your teen would do if he found himself in this situation and inform him of the risks and signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do. 

Pictures From

Sigma Alpha Epislon House: Original photo by Kane5187 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped by author.

Amy Winehouse: By Rama (cropped version from) [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Passed Out Wine Girls: By danielle_blue at https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielleblue/1453928309

Talking on the Phone: By Marjan Lazarevski at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlazarevski/9645066390

Police Line: By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hospital Bed: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Paramedics: By Chris Wagner at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt. 2)

Offered a cold one at a party? At a wedding reception where everyone pressures you to take advantage of the open bar? With friends who smuggle a six pack into the summer music festival?

Thirsty for more tips on how to handle these situations and more?

Modeselektor_at_Melt!_music_festival_in_Germany

Deciding to abstain from alcohol is a positive and healthy choice, particularly if you are still a teen, but it can sometimes be a difficult one to make. Other people may put enormous pressure on you to drink, and it can be hard to turn them down. And while avoiding or leaving events and situations where there is alcohol is certainly an option, sometimes it’s not always possible or desirable (you did pay good money for that music festival ticket, after all).

Here are five more tips for people who don’t want to drink.

#6 Explain Your Reasons Effectively

As explained in Tip #5 in our first article, simplicity is always useful when turning down a drink, with basic responses like “no thanks, I’m good,” proving quite successful. If somebody asks you why and you choose to give an answer—remember you can always avoid the question and use the Broken Record Technique—quick, straightforward answers are likewise the best tactic. Some examples include:

  • I’m the designated driver (more on this in Tip #10)
  • I have to get up early tomorrow
  • I just don’t feel like it
  • I partied pretty hard last night/weekend so I’m taking it easy
  • My parents will kill me and they somehow find out everything I do
  • (In the case of beer) I’m allergic to gluten

Of course, some reasons may be more effective than others explainingdepending on the crowd around you, but generally any will suffice. A good idea is to know your reasons ahead of time and even practice saying them, especially if you’re shy or nervous about telling people no. It will allow for a confident delivery (see Tip #4).

When giving any sort of reason for your sobriety there are two key points to remember:

1.) While it’s definitely simpler when your reason is true—you really do need to get up early—it doesn’t have to be. If you’re comfortable with it, a little white lie sometimes makes things easier if you’re around people you don’t know well (I don’t recommend lying to friends, and they probably know enough about you to discern the truth anyway).

In my own life, I’ve used this technique when I was feeling self-conscious or wanted to avoid the hassle of telling people I outright don’t drink. That included letting on that I drank earlier that night or in my past, even though it wasn’t true. Sobriety is nothing to be ashamed of, but telling a small lie can be less intimidating for some people.

2.) When explaining why you aren’t drinking, the best defense is not a good offense. Whether your reasons are personal or you don’t think anyone should consume alcohol, a house party is neither the time nor place to start lecturing people about impaired driving and brain trauma.

No one wants to feel attacked. So just as you want people to be chill with your decision, so too do you need to be chill with theirs.

So instead of answering with “I don’t drink alcohol and neither should you,” stick with “It’s just not my thing” or “I don’t like the way it makes me feel.”

That said, if you truly do think your friends should stop drinking, or alcohol is becoming a serious problem, do reach out. Just know that mid-kegger is probably not the most practical opportunity.

#7 What’s in Your Red Cup?

One of the easiest ways to deter pressure to drink alcohol is to already have some other drink in your hand. Whether it’s soda, water, juice, a virgin cocktail, or something else entirely, just by virtue of holding a cup or bottle, a lot of people won’t even bother you. They’ll either recognize that you’re good with what you have or assume your drink is already of the booze variety. It’s completely up to you whether you inform them it’s non-alcoholic.

You can pretty much count on any event having some sort of water source, and a lot of parties will have soda or juice available for chasers and mixed drinks. In the case of the latter, however, make sure you don’t personally drink all of it. Turns out—as I’ve come to learn—this tends to upset other people.

A good tip is to bring your own drink to the party to ensure there’s something for you. You could even bring over a big liter of soda, jug of juice, etc. to share with everyone. Not only is this a good way to thank your host and contribute to the event, but also people can’t really complain you drank most of it if you are the one who brought it.

#8 Loosen Up without Boozin’ Up

Alcohol is often called a social lubricant, a way to help people lower their guard and feel more at ease in a social setting. People generally want everyone else to have fun, especially if they are the host of the event, and might offer you a drink so you can loosen up and join the fun.

239092944_b575509fb1_zIf this happens, it’s important to show them what you already know: You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.

Open up, laugh, joke, dance, sing karaoke, be silly! Whatever is going on or whatever the general mood is, make sure you are a part of it.

Depending on your personality, this might be difficult. You may feel awkward shakin’ it on the dance floor, for instance, but trust me, no one will notice—you’re just another person enjoying the party. Being a wet blanket skulking in the corner, on the other hand, will attract negative attention and isn’t fun for anybody.

Are people playing drinking games at the party? See if you can play with something non-alcoholic. In plenty of games, from Beer Pong to Down the River to Flip Cup, swapping in a beverage of your choice for yourself is easy and has no effect on other players. Sure, this won’t work with games like Rage Cage or King’s Cup which involve communal drink(s), and not all people are going to accept non-drinking participants in such an alcohol-centric activity, but should circumstances permit it, go ahead and try. Many drinking games are fun just as regular games.

Warning: Completely fail at a game that requires coordination when you are sober, and you absolutely will be the butt of some jokes. I speak from experience.

#9 Roll with the Punches

It’s not uncommon to get a little teasing for deciding not to drink, even from friends and others who accept your choice. You might be called a prude, goody two shoes, or maybe Mom or Dad. People may joke that you’re secretly a narc or an outer space alien.

The best way to hanLaugh at yourselfdle this is to take it in stride and learn how to laugh at
yourself. I bore the nickname “Sober Sally” for years, but instead of letting it get to me, I wore it with pride. In some sense it even made things easier, a way to get a laugh out of people who asked me to drink.

“Hey, Tyler, want a beer?”

“That’s alright, man, I’m actually a bit of a Sober Sally.”

“Haha, no worries, dude.”

Remember though, a little bit of joking is okay. Bullying is not. If something truly bothers you, speak up.

Also know that at the end of the day, there might always be that one jerk guy or girl who just can’t get over your sobriety no matter what you say or do. Just remain calm, jovial, and confident, and pretty soon they’re the one who is going to start looking like an obsessive creep.

Not drinking is your decision, and if someone dislikes it, that’s their problem not yours.

#10 Use that Clear Head of Yours

If you plan on attending places where there is drinking, you need to get used to being around drunk people. Intoxicated people often don’t think clearly and are much more susceptible to their emotions. Sometimes troubles arise, and it would help to have someone around who can think logically.

That’s where you come in.

BiffFightsStrawbBlonde1941TrailerMake sure everyone has a safe way home and nobody gets taken advantage of. Try to cool down arguments that might turn into fights. Learn how to take care of a person who’s had too much and to tell the difference between somebody who needs immediate medical attention and who is fine to go to sleep.

Don’t act like you’re Superman or the next Mother Theresa about it, though. As helpful as you might be, people won’t respond well to you portraying yourself as some sort of savior just because you aren’t drinking. At the same time, don’t feel like must sacrifice your whole night looking out for others. Have your fun but keep a subtle eye out for anything troubling.

passed out

On a similar note, since you will be sober, offer to be the designated driver.

While it can be annoying when others automatically assume you’ll DD, overall it works out for the best for you and everyone else. It ensures that your friends will have a safe ride, and it gives you an easy out for staying sober.

And because people tend to be so desperate not to be the DD, you definitely hold some leverage.

After my friend Kenny puked in my van—he got most of it in a bucket, but I still had to scrub the seat the next day—I insisted on only driving other people’s cars. You can call dibs on the music or ask for gas money; like everything else about the night, the choice is up to you.

*        *        *

By Tyler Wroblewski

We hope this list proves useful if ever you find yourself surrounded by alcohol while staying sober. Deciding not to drink doesn’t mean giving up friends or a social life, and with these tips, you can keep both and still have fun and stay safe.

Pictures From

Concert: From Alec Luhn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Talking on Steps: From Akuppa John Wigham at www.flickr.com/photos/90664717@N00

Juice: From https://pixabay.com/en/beverage-juices-drink-food-healthy-882652/

Karaoke: From Kyle Taylor at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kyletaylor/239092944

Laugh at Yourself: From Celestine Chua at www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua

Fist Fight: From Public Domain image via Wikimedia Commons from film “Strawberry Blonde.”

Passed Out Man: From https://pixabay.com/en/alcohol-hangover-event-death-drunk-428392/

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt.1)

As a teen, there’s a decent chance you will be offered alcohol or other drugs at some point. Maybe by a stranger at a party, an acquaintance, even a friend. And for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into right now (teen drinkers are more likely than their non-drinking peers to become alcoholics—sorry, just had to slip one in there!), we at Omni Youth Programs encourage you to turn down their offer.

Easier said than done, right?

Like, how exactly do you say no? Or how should you respond when people ask why? What if you decide to be sober but still want to hang out with friends who drink or go to a party where alcohol may be present?

Of course, Omni Youth Programs advises teens to avoid situations that involve underage drinking completely. The best way to turn down a drink is to not be in a scenario where someone would offer you one. Furthermore, even if you are staying sober, an alcohol-infused environment could still prove dangerous. Intoxicated people are more prone to bad decisions, crazy antics, and violence, all of which could put you in danger—not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law, even if you did not personally consume any alcohol.

That said, we also recognize that avoiding alcohol entirely is not always possible when leading a typical teenage life. You might show up to a pool party, not realizing there would be booze present, or go to a concert with a drunken crowd. Maybe you don’t have a safe way to leave the situation or perhaps you simply don’t want to miss out on an otherwise fun time because of the poor choices of others.

These top ten tips can apply to everyone, whether you never drink, just aren’t drinking for the night, or simply want to drink in moderation when everyone else is getting hammered. Furthermore, while I will mostly be addressing teens, these tips can be just as helpful for non-drinking adults at the bar.

#1 Trust Your Friends

As I’ve explained before, telling my friends I didn’t want to drink was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life. I was scared my decision would weaken our friendships, and we’d drift apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

hiking picture editWhile it’s possible your friends may be initially disappointed, they’ll quickly adjust. Friends don’t need to like all the same things
or have the exact same opinions on everything to be able to appreciate one another. Your real friends will accept you for who you are.

Also, once you tell your pals the first time, it’s either not a problem anymore or it gets infinitely easier to deal with. My buddies came to accept that I was a non-drinker, and if they or anyone else asked me to drink it was increasingly easy to say no. Furthermore, whenever we were at a situation with a lot of new people, I felt like they always had my back about my choices and would support me in the face of anyone who gave me trouble.

#2 Go Where You’re Comfortable

As I tagged along with my friends to various events where alcohol was present, I gradually discovered what types of gatherings I could have fun at and those that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A significant part of that was the “level” of alcohol or how much the event centered on drinking.

Some non-drinkers are comfortable with even the wildest of frat parties, some only enjoy low-key BBQs with a few beers present, while others don’t like being around booze at all. For me, I was cool with kickbacks and small-sized parties, but anything much crazier than that and I’d decline the invite.dancing legs

Figure out where you are comfortable. If you’re feeling weird, don’t feel awkward about leaving the situation. Always know that your decision not to drink does not define you. Don’t think it dictates who you can or can’t be friends with or where you can or can’t go to have fun. That’s up to you.

#3 You Aren’t Alone

Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one in the world not drinking, and pop culture often portrays being drunk as a requirement for a good time. But did you know roughly 70% of teens don’t drink?

Lots of people choose not to drink or do so only in moderation. When you are at a party or other social situation with alcohol, it’s likely there will be other people not drinking. Whether they’re the designated driver, totally abstain from alcohol, or need to get up early, you can usually find others who are sober.

friends hands edited

Also, countless entertaining activities don’t involve alcohol, everything from playing sports to hiking to shopping at the mall and more. Sure, a lot of my buddies like to drink, but that’s far from the only time we get together. Your friends will also be into doing other fun things. Capitalize on those opportunities.

#4 It’s All in How You Say It

The number one part of telling people you don’t want to drink is in the way you say it. No matter the exact words you use to say no or explain your reasoning, you need to be confident but polite. Go ahead and repeat that to yourself.

Confident but polite.

Confident: If you sound wishy-washy people might think you don’t really believe you don’t want to drink and just need a little convincing. Be assured in your decision and show it. I was at a kickback with a lot of people I didn’t know once, and it took at least three times as long for everyone to finally understand I wasn’t a drinker, all because I was too meek in my initial response.

Polite: On the flip side, you shouldn’t sound so over-confident as to be arrogant or aggressive. Doing so may seem like you are attacking everyone else. Make sure to thank them for offering—sometimes people ask you to be a good host—but then politely decline.

#5 Short but Sweet

Simplicity is your friend.

It is the greatest tool in your belt, the strongest weapon in your arsenal. When it comes to turning down a drink, simplicity is often the best tactic.

“Hey, do you want a shot?”

“Nah, man, I’m good.”

Boom. Drop the mic.

 Mic

Sometimes, less is more. You don’t need to go into long-winded explanations as to why you aren’t going to shotgun that beer if no one asks. Save yourself the time and effort and keep things short and simple. “No thanks,” “that’s alright, I’m fine,” and the like are all perfectly great responses that tend to garner equally great results. You didn’t make a big deal out of turning down a drink, so why should anyone else?

And if the first “I’m good” isn’t enough, you can always use the Broken Record Technique (aka the B.R.T.). Someone asks you again and again and again to drink? Just repeat the same short phrase again and again and again. They’ll take the hint.

*       *       *

By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for the remaining five awesome tips for non-drinkers!


Pictures From

Beer: From Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Group Picture & Picture of Hands: From the author.

Dancing: From www.audio-luci-store.it at www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

Microphone: From Robert Bejil at www.flickr.com/photos/robnas/

Telling Your Friends You Don’t Want to Drink: A Real Life Story

“My house is free this weekend,” my friend Nick* said. It was Christmas break 2010 after our first semester of college, and our hometown group of friends had recently reunited. “I was thinking of hosting a kickback**. Would you be down to drink?”

Friend Group Camping Edited

I never drank in high school. Neither, for the most part, did anyone in my friend group (Nick included). We weren’t close with many people outside our tight-knit group and it never came up between us. Drinking—the actual activity and even just the pressure or desire to do so—had never much been a part of our lives. That same experience continued in college for me, where I again coincidentally met friends who weren’t interested in alcohol.

The majority of my high school friends, however, started drinking at college. They came back to town with tales of drunken exploits, dozens of drinking games, and a seemingly infinite knowledge of beers, liquors, and mixed drinks. I stayed quiet when they would talk to each other about such subjects, unsure if my silence was noticeable, or worse, a drag for them. Friendships undoubtedly change as you get older, sometimes disappearing completely, and I was terrified that this was the beginning of losing them.

I found myself at Nick’s house a couple nights later, along with my friends Will, Mitch, Cody, and Kyle, one of the few others who didn’t drink at college but was willing to do so now. Two girls Will and Nick knew from school (they were the only two of us to go to the same college) would arrive later.

Someone decided we should start off the night with a shot. At this point I knew I did not want to drink and was uncomfortable with the situation. But I was afraid. Afraid to speak up, afraid to say no, afraid I might open up a rift between my best buddies and I that would continue to grow until I lost all connection with the other side. My group of friends had stuck together since middle school, but we never really encountered any challenge to those friendships, never had to put them to the test.

With that fear in mind, I took that first shot. I forget what it was now, vodka or some type of “jungle juice” mix, I think—whatever it was, it was nasty and burned as it went down.

Beer_Pong_Scene

My intense displeasure of that shot tipped the scales, though. I wasn’t going to spend my night doing this. As my friends started setting up a game of beer pong, I summoned all my courage.

“Guys,” I said, voice low and wavering. My guts churned. “Guys, I’m not going to drink.”

A clamoring of awws, whats, and why nots followed.

“I just…I just don’t want to.” At the time, I didn’t know my exact reasons for not drinking. All I knew was that it was something I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t going to judge any of my friends for drinking or try to get them to stop, but neither would I participate.

It felt like all the blood drained from my body as I waited a painfully long few seconds for their response. I wondered if I’d be asked to leave and felt my pocket for my keys.

You know what happened next? Nothing.

Not really anyway. There were a few more grumbles and at some point they playfully dubbed me “Sober Sally,” but that was it. We talked and joked around the same as always. I drank soda or nothing at all while playing their drinking games and enjoyed the night as much as anyone else—but on my own terms. I decided not to compromise my personal values and my friends hardly batted an eye.

I was part of the group and always would be.

friends on the roof

Whether you’ve never had a drink before or just don’t want to drink for the night (or want to drink less) telling people, friends especially, can be scary. In fact, it remains one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life.

RedPlasticCupYet it’s also one of my proudest. I’m proud of myself for speaking
up but, most of all, proud of my friends. In the end, I should have known. If your friends ostracize you for not doing something that makes you uncomfortable, they aren’t that great of friends to begin with. Your true friends won’t care and will accept you either way, no matter what is in your red Solo cup.

*       *       *

By Tyler Wroblewski

For specific techniques for telling people you don’t want to drink, as well as tips and tricks for being sober at an event where there is alcohol, click here for our 10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink Part 1 and Part 2!

*Some names may have been changed as per request.

**A kickback is a drinking-oriented gathering that involves too few people to be considered a party.

Pictures From:

Fig. 1 & 3: From the author.

Fig. 2: By Rethcir at the English language Wikipedia

Fig. 4: By xaosflux [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons