When my kids were in high school, I wrote a five-part series of “Teenproofing” posts about teens and drinking. The posts include many of my opinions and suggestions including not letting your kids drink in your house.
My kids are all in their mid-twenties now, so I haven’t given a lot of thought to teen drinking of late.
I was reminded of the subject when I read an article in the Washington Post by Elizabeth Heubeck last year.
Heubeck says many parents’ well-intentioned efforts to keep adolescents safe while consuming alcohol are not only ineffective, but have also helped to fuel an epidemic of teenage binge drinking — (for example…) Parents “encouraging alcohol-imbibing teens to take advantage of ride programs like Uber, to spend the night at a friend’s house, or to drink in one’s own home as opposed to unknown settings”.
Most parents don’t want their teens to binge drink. But parents who attempt to provide safe parameters — like having teens drink in the basement with friends — increase the likelihood that their offspring will become binge drinkers… (Parents need to know) they have far more influence over their teens’ decisions regarding alcohol use than they may realize.
“Parents are the number one protection against underage drinking,” said Helen Witty, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving… Multiple studies confirm this… But many parents fail to exert their influence.
Experts say misperceptions are often to blame… including this popular one: If I can teach them to drink at home, they’ll be fine. The idea of teaching teens to drink responsibly is misguided… A recent review of more than 20 studies on the topic concluded that teens given permission to drink at home are more likely to drink more frequently, and in higher quantities, outside the home.
Teens who start drinking early often pay for it later in life. One oft-cited national study showed that people who use alcohol before age 15 are six times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who begin drinking at age 21.
Another widespread misperception… is that teenagers who aren’t allowed to drink in high school will “go crazy” in college… (while) students sometimes come to college and quickly end up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning, these instances are the exception.
(Parents should) have multiple, small conversations that start early, when kids are about 9 years old — well before they’re likely to start experimenting with alcohol.