Teaching adolescents about drinking

Q: As a parent of a high school-age son, I am concerned about the potential for his experimentation with alcohol in the coming years. I’ve heard other parents who suggest that it might be better for young people to experience their first alcoholic beverages in the company of adults who care for them. I hate to think about my child having his first drink at a beer party where his peers may be going wild. I am torn between wanting to send the right message about alcohol abstinence and protecting my child from the dangers of alcohol consumption in the wrong environment. What’s your advice?


A: The issue of underage alcohol consumption is a confusing one for many parents.  It is true that many parents believe allowing children to drink at home “teaches” them how to become responsible drinkers.  I often hear, “It is better to have my kids drink at home than out with their friends.”  The flaw in this thought process is that any way you look at it, a parent is condoning a behavior that is both illegal and dangerous.

Children who have parents who allow them to drink at home often believe that their parents think drinking is OK. This usually translates into more drinking for the child. Eventually, the student begins drinking outside of the home, too.

It may be helpful for you to know that parents who do not allow underage drinking – and model responsible alcohol use themselves — raise children who are less likely to drink or to drink in excess.