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?

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