Teen Practice Drinking: The Way to Raising a Non-Drunk?

booze bottles kitchen

Flickr: Photo by cote

As an alcoholic (sober nine years last week!) who took her first drink in junior high school, I do worry about my kids when it comes to drinking.

Is there a way to teach them to drink alcohol responsibly (or even abstain until they're older) or is it par for the teenage course to drink irresponsibly, whether or not the drinking becomes a problem in the long-term?

British wine expert and BBC star Oz Clarke suggests that teens need practice in order to learn to drink responsibly. “Growing up is about risk," he says in the Telegraph.

Not exactly music to this mom's ears...

I don't look forward to the first time I find out one of my boys has taken up drinking. While many Europeans and even some moderately radical American parents believe you can and should introduce your kids to alcohol at home, allow them to drink small amounts, and feel its effects under parental supervision, I just can't go there.

While I know alcohol functions as a normal extracurricular in many a normal person's life, I have this knee-jerk reaction to the idea of "introducing" it, even responsibly, to my kids, especially since I never knew how to drink responsibly. And especially when I've worked really hard to make a life that doesn't involve alcohol. I think I'd feel like I was telling my kids that drinking has to be part of there life when, in fact, I hope they never feel like they can't have fun or be brave or feel confident without drinking alcohol.

Of course, drinking was never really discussed in my childhood home and surely not excessive drinking. My parents didn't have the words or the know-how to address addiction or the short- and long-term effects of binge drinking or the risky, irresponsible behaviors that can go along with it.

So sometimes I do wonder if some guidance along the way, even from a professional, would have made a difference in my journey. However, I don't think that "practice drinking" wine with dinner would have done anything to keep me on the straight and narrow. But maybe that's just my alky head talking. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to guzzle the stuff. Maybe if I had been shown how to sip it, before the days when we sneaked and gulped it, maybe then I could have learned to go about it differently. It's hard to know.

And now I worry that, especially as an alcoholic, I'm just as ill equipped to dole out any information about responsible drinking as my parents were with me. But I hope to God I'm wrong.

What was your teen experience with alcohol? How did your parents handle it and how did you turn out? Any plans for when your kids become interested?

drugs & alcohol, teens


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ryanlynn ryanlynn

I started drinking when i was 13.I drank a lot :/ but now i don't drink.Unless its a fancy Margarita on a special day.I guess for me"I got it all outta my system" along with many other experiments.Now I am 23 with 2 children and cant stand the smell of beer or alcohol(unless its a Strawberry Margarita,I suck up my pussyness for that lol)

jeann... jeannesager

I think modeled behaviors play a big role. It's not necessarily setting your kid up with their own bottle of Jack, but when a parent takes one Jack and Coke at dinner instead of six, that's a good example to the kids. That's what my parents did, and I am not a big drinker. Occasional beer or glass of wine with dinner - just as my parents did.
My best friend's parents were like yours - never talked about alcohol at all, and he's always struggled with going too far with his drinking. He was a borderline alcoholic in college, and even now doesn't know how to have one or two at a party.

sober... sobergreenmom

Congrats on your recent sobriety birthday (I also celebrated 5 years on the 9th)! My mom was a bit of a free spirit and thought it would be a good idea to allow some moderate drinking in the home...wine with dinner occasionally, a little schnapps on the slopes, etc. And I did drink quite a bit as a teen. After getting married and having my first child, it was no longer part of our "lifestyle" and only drank once in a while at a Christmas party or some special occasion. Somewhere later down the line, I crossed over some kind of fuzzy line. For me it was instantaneous. Boom! Instant alcoholic. And now I also worry about the best way to handle talking about alcohol with my kids. Frankly, they don't see a lot of it at home because I don't drink and my husband has the very rare beer. I try my best to be open and honest about my experience (which is obviously horrid) and my husband does too (he's wayyyyy normal). Isn't that what we always do as parents...try our best?

3are_... 3are_a_blessing

I grew up thinking that alcohol was "the devil's brew." I never had a drink until I was over 21, and then decided after one sip that I didn't care for it. In college I had met friends who drank wine occasionally with their families and that helped me to stop condemning responsible drinkers.

My change of opinion turned out to be highly beneficial since my husband is a gourmet beer enthusiast. I still don't drink, but my husband and I think it is beneficial for our kids to see him drink in moderation. We are intentionally avoiding creating an aura of mystery and "forbidden fruit."

sodapple sodapple

a friend of my mom would tell her to let me have a taste of the drink, by taste i mean a sip and from nothing strong. with that said i remember being with my cousins 6 years older than me, i was 12, and they gave me beer, i only drank two while i was with them one during the day, the beer got hot an yuck!, then one at night and still hated the taste of it, lol. I came out ok, lol, now i'm 22 and pregnant so i can't drink jaja, but whenever i get to drink and i start feeling tipsy i would stop drinking or go eat something. i have friends who are my age and have make a fool of themselves by drinking. did i mention i hate drunk people? i do terribly =-( I think if you teach your kids from an early age the good and bads of things they come out ok.

Nevae... Nevaeh2908

I was twelve years old the first time I got drunk and started drinking. In high school, I used to go out every weekend and party. I used to be able to chug a six pack easily and play drinking games. When I did drink Liquor, I tried to stick to just a few drinks but there were a few times when I downed a fifth by myself. When I turned 18, I got pregnant and I quit drinking. I didn't have another drink till my 21st birthday. I got pregnant again and now I may drink 1 beer every 6 months and sometimes I don't even finish it. I wouldn't say I had a drinking problem or that i was addicted to it. I just loved to party and hang out with my friends. There were times when we hung out and didn't drink but it was a small town i lived in when i was in high school and there wasn't much else to do.

LoveO... LoveOurKid

First off I have to congrats Sheri & ryanlynn on your sobriety and also tell you how brave you both were to decide to get sober right before St. Pat's Day!! I too am a friend of Bill W. and have not had a drink since 1987. This is an interesting concept however, I do not agree with it. It would be like playing Russian Roulette with your children! We don't know enough about what causes/triggers alcoholism so subjecting our kids to this sort of experiment would be risky in my opinion.

nonmember avatar Christy

This subject is near to my heart as I have 15 yrs in recovery and I am an ounselor. There has been many attempts at "teaching folks to drink responsibily". From my personal and professional experience, those who can learn to drink responsiblily are not those whom become addicted. I am seeing younger and younger patients whom are in great trauma and there very lives are on the line, both physically and mentally. I would like to encourage abstinence, acceptance and life is still adventurous and enjoyable without the use of any mind altering substance. My belief is that the programming that NO alcohol or drug use- NO fun comes through loud and clear to our young ones. Take the "practice time" to teach fun without instead of fun with substances and maybe my professional hours will need to be reduced:). Let the fun begin and Sobriety Rocks-try it today.

nonmember avatar sherlee

Both my parents were alcoholics, very functional ones. They both were professionals, worked full time, paid their bills, and were never arrested for anything. I hated my home life. I began drinking at 17 and continued off and on till I was about 31. Thank god I never delevoped a problem. I now do not drink a drop, neither does my husband who I didn't marry till I was 34. I didn't have my first child till I was 36, maybe there is some merit to teaching responsible drinking, however I just can't bring myself to do it. My dtr is 18 and I have always enforced zero tolerance.

justa... justanotherjen

My parents were both drinkers. My mom would have a 6 pack almost every day while chatting with the tenant in the basement (my gramma's cousin who was like a grandfather to us). Or she went to the bar down the street. I spent a lot of time at the bar drinking Cokes and playing darts (good memories).
My dad used to let us taste his drinks by dipping our finger in it. I had my first alcoholic drink at 16 (a watered down wine cooler at a family party). After that my mom would buy them for me at holidays to drink with the toast (I can't stand wine). But other then that I rarely drank. In college I never drank or partied. My first trip to the bar was at 22 and I had a couple drinks and left. I had my first beer at 28 and got drunk the first time at 29. I still rarely drink. It just doesn't interest me.
Not sure what I will do with the kids when they are older. They have all had tastes of our drinks/beers and don't like them. It will definitely depend on the kid and how responsible they are to begin with.

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