Parenting FAQ: Should parents allow their teen to drink?

parents saying no to teen drinkingThere are two answers to this question. One is very simple. The other is complex. But they both point to the same result.

The first answer, the simple one, is no.

The second of the two answers is a more complex ‘no’. The reason this no is more complex is that it comes with a series of arguments that go against the debate teenagers – and parents who want to be there teen’s friend – will pose against the simple no in the previous paragraph.

Here are a few of the topics of debate when it comes to saying ‘no’ to teen drinking and a list of some points you can make with your teenager. Remember, when it comes to giving your permission, you are the one setting the rules. So, whether or not your teen feels you know what you’re talking about, the answer is still no.

Successful parenting is responsible parenting. It is the responsibility of parents to keep their children safe. Drinking alcohol at parties or out with friends is not a safe activity. Imbibing in alcohol inhibits decision-making abilities. Combine that with the risk-taking characteristic that defines the teenage years and you have a recipe for disaster. One that all too many parents have faced.

You didn’t let your child put his finger into the electric socket when they were young, but they wanted to because they didn’t know any better. Use the same logic here as alcohol use plays a substantial role in all three leading causes of death among youth – unintentional injuries (including motor vehicle fatalities and drowning), suicides, and homicides.

It may be that the popular opinion is most teens are drinking, but there are also a lot of teens that aren’t drinking. What your teen needs to know is that drinking alcohol is not a rite of passage. It does not make them more adult or mature. “Having a beer” or “getting wasted” are not goals to aspire to. The high you feel from drinking alcohol is temporary and fake. There are many other things that your teen can do with friends that will make them feel good on the inside for life, volunteering for instance.

Make it clear to your teen that there are laws against underage drinking and your family values dictate that you follow the law. The minimum drinking age is a state law. In some states, no restriction on private consumption is made, while in others, consumption is only allowed in specific locations, in the presence of consenting and supervising family members. And should teens consume too much at home, privately, it can fall under the child neglect laws in your state.

And send a clear message to your teen that there are consequences for breaking these laws. In the state of New Jersey, if you are a minor who is caught drinking, you face a fine of not less than $500.00. And if you allow alcohol consumption in your home, you will face a fine of up to $1.000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment. Most states have similar laws.

So, what is the answer to ‘teens are just going to do it anyway’? The answer is threefold: prevention, education, and discipline. You prevent by build strong family bonds and dealing with issues that may lead to alcohol consumption. You educate your teen about the dangers of alcohol. Then, you set the rules and follow through with the consequences. Know that your teen is perfect, but expect that they will follow through.

But what about a glass of wine at a family dinner or some champagne during a wedding toast? Should parents allow their teen to partake at these times? It is my humble opinion that these instances are not on the same level as allowing teens to drink at a party or out with friends. Which is how the law sees it as well. It is legally allowed and a personal family choice.

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