As a teen, I remember my dad kept a simple drinking policy; You did at home. He didn’t expect me to hide it, and he didn’t try to stop it. He only insisted that if I was going to drink, I had to start at home and stay at home. My dad knew that it wouldn’t matter what he did, I, like most teens, would drink. In fact, over 60 percent of all teens have consumed alcohol by age 18. He also understood that drinking itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s how you drink, not that you drink. Now 32, I am not an alcoholic. I graduated high school with good grades, and went to college. I’ve never driven drunk. I don’t do drugs. I have no criminal record. I am a mother of four planned children I did not have as a teen, and when my toddlers are teens I will continue my father’s alcohol policy.
Obliterating a social stigma:
I lived in Germany for some time. There, alcohol was common place. It was served with breakfast and dinner. It was cheaper than water. It wasn’t a taboo elixir that got you intoxicated, it was just a beverage. People viewed it that way. I watched with great interest the first time I sat at a late-night bar and watched a pack of teens pile in. I expected the typical ridiculous behavior exhibited by many American teens while drinking. They just played pool and hung out. They weren’t loud or rude. They were coherent and polite. Over time I saw the same scene play out often in bars, cafes, and even street festivals. When teens are taught to view alcohol as nothing more than another beverage, it is just another beverage.
A study done in 2001 attempted to disprove that the European view of alcohol for the most part eliminates the problem of teen drinking, not by stopping it, but by altering the way it is done. The results were reported and widely successful in showing teen drinking was in fact a bigger problem in Europe. The study however failed to factor in why the teens were drinking, whether they became drunk, and how they behaved while drinking. All the study did was prove that teens everywhere do indeed drink.
Removing the danger element:
As a teen I knew many kids who drank, because they weren’t supposed to. It played very stereotypically into the rebelliously idiotic teen outlook, but it’s the truth. Myself and other teens I knew that were allowed to drink actually drank less than those whose parents strictly forbid it. They also handled their alcohol better. Their parents had been around when they first began drinking and had offered guidance and a clean toilet bowl when needed. Those teens learned how to responsibly drink in a safe environment. Today they still possess that knowledge.
Being a parent:
As a parent our job is to educate and guide our children. Saying, “You shouldn’t drink, because the government says drinking is bad,” doesn’t do that. There is no unbiased data that supports 21 is the magic age that a person can begin drinking and remain responsible and safe. There are plenty of adult alcoholics and belligerent drunks to disprove that suggestion. Much like many teen dangers it makes more sense to offer a solid education on the subject.
Teach your teen the right way to drink, and you’ll do them a bigger favor than just keeping them out of trouble as a teen.