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I am smack dab in the middle of the teen years with my three kiddos, and I know for sure my kids have at least thought about experimenting with alcohol.
Whether they have or not is still in question. We've had plenty of talks, and I know they aren't going to straight out tell me what they have and have not done at this point. Maybe someday they will, but I'm smart enough to realize today is not this day.
The CDC’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, during the past 30 days:
- 30% drank some amount of alcohol. - 14% binge drank. - 6% drove after drinking alcohol. - 17% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
As a teen, I certainly never shared drinking details with my parents. They never asked, and we hardly ever had discussions about it.
While I want to be approachable and hopefully have my kids open up to me more than I did to their grandparents, I will never condone underage drinking under my roof.
I know this is a thing, and parents allow underage drinking parties at their house as a way to keep kids "safe" and "off the streets" while drinking and argue they will do it anyway, but in my opinion, offering liquor to a minor is in no way all right. In fact, it’s unacceptable and irresponsible.
FACT: The CDC reports in 2013 there were approximately 119,000 emergency room visits by persons age 12 to 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.
The reason is, I can teach my kids how to act responsibly by showing them how to drink responsibly by not abusing alcohol myself.
FACT: On average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers.
Source: CDC Underage Drinking Fact Sheet
I can tell them how to be level-headed around alcohol and keep themselves (and others) safe.
I can remind them they can always call me if they (or one of their friends) are in a tough spot and I will be there.
I can let them know the dangers of drinking too much and of driving under the influence. They are old enough to make informed decisions without me allowing them to drink under my roof.
And I can do all this without cracking open a beer for them and their friends or allowing keg parties in my basement and sending the message they are entitled, and the rules don’t apply to them. They aren’t old enough to handle a responsibility like alcohol.
And the facts are there. The CDC also reports people ages 12-20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States, and more than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. Clearly underage drinkers don’t know how to drink in a responsible way which is why it’s dangerous and illegal. (Remember the “affluenza teen” who killed four people while driving drunk?)
I don't get to decide that it is all right for their friends to have alcohol whether they are under my roof or not. Ever.
And I don't believe, for one second, serving up cocktails, or allowing teenagers to bring alcohol and drink it in my house will keep then any safer. I think it will promote it, make them feel more comfortable, and like they are above the law.
Drinking leads to poor grades, more school absences and legal problems according to the CDC—those consequences might occur whether my kids are drinking under my roof or not.
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Not to mention before I know it, my house would be crawling with kids all the time because they are in the mood to get intoxicated and hey, this adult says it's OK so it must not be that bad!
You can be a soft lining for your kids to land, even if they do something you don't approve of, and still be the parent, not the friend. The two don't have to be mutually exclusive.
But it’s never okay to let a teen drink under your roof—not for special occasion, not a sip on New Year’s Eve, birthdays, never.
Some parents may not think it's a big deal to host a post-prom/homecoming party and allow underage kids to drink, but when you think about the legal ramifications alone (times however many kids are drinking), it is a big deal, a huge one actually.
It sends the wrong message about respecting rules and boundaries. These kids have no idea how to drink in a responsible way, and I certainly don't have the capacity to teach a bunch of teens how to do so. No parent needs to take that task on because they think they are doing them all a service by keeping them safe or thinking they are going to indulge anyway so they might as well let them go to town in their house.
I'll teach my kids to be respectful and responsible, and if they do dabble in drinking and get into trouble or need a ride, I'll will be there without judgment.
But I'll also let them know what can happen if they drink too much, sneak, lie, or get into trouble. The legal age to drink is 21, not 15, not 18, not 20, and it needs to be respected.