A few nights ago, my 16-year-old son came home from his summer job late at night and found my older son’s friend at our home drinking beer. I heard my son asked the older boy to let him try his beer. “It’s almost midnight. You don’t need to drink beer right now,” I told him.
At that moment, I was torn.
If I made a big deal about my son trying beer, I felt like he would want to do it even more, and even be sneaky about it. But at the same time, I didn’t want to encourage it. So I made it about the time of night, rather than the bigger issue of trying beer.
To be honest, I really don’t know what to say to teenagers about alcohol. We know that most teenagers will NOT wait until they are 21 to drink. Personally, I think the drinking age should be 18 because most teens are drinking at that age anyway.
I love wine and have offered my kids to try different types of wine when I am drinking it. I don’t want alcohol to seem like forbidden fruit. I have found it is easy to have a conversation about drinking and driving with teenagers than not drinking at all. I have told my kids to call me, or a friend or Uber if they have been drinking, particularly my two kids now in college. I have also had the conversation about the dangers of a fake ID and how police in some cities give out tickets for Minors in Possession of alcohol. (MIPs)
But what do you say to a teenager in high school, which is a time when parties usually involve alcohol? I have never really wanted to make a big deal to my sons about drinking beer because I know for most teenage boys it is going to happen.
I find when parents forbid their teens to drink or try alcohol, their kids often become sneaky about it. I have seen that firsthand. When my older son was still in high school, his friend slept over. During the night, they both got into my husband’s beer. The next morning when his mother came to pick him up, she proceeded to tell me that her son doesn’t drink and is still a “good” kid and she plans to keep him that way. I felt awful.
When I talked with my son about it, he insisted it was his friend who repeatedly insisted they drink the beer. Again, I tried not to make a big deal about it because my son did tell me what had happened and said he wanted to try beer in a situation in which he didn’t have to drive and it wasn’t socially awkward. He never really drank again during high school.
However, I know some parents don’t care at all if their teens drink in high school and are happy their kids are invited to the cool parties with the cool crowd that drinks.
Clearly, teenage drinking is an area where parents struggle – and differ widely on their approach. I am wondering what kind of conversations you have had with your teens. Do you forbid underage drinking? Do you accept that it’s going to happen and set some guidelines? I would love to hear how other parents handle teenage drinking.