Almost half of all teens who start drinking alcohol before the age of 14, the research tells us, become dependent on alcohol at some point, compared with 9% of those who began drinking at age 21 or older. That statistic should be enough to convince parents they need to convince their kids to wait.
Drinking young is not really a precursor to alcoholism. Family, environmental factors, genetic make-up of personality and ambition of the child all play a role. Dr. Sandra A. Brown, a professor in psychiatry and psychology at the University of California in San Diego says that only half of all children with two alcoholic parents, become alcohol dependent at some point in their lives.
Psychologists and researchers who work with alcoholics point out that when it comes to drinking teens role models are their parents. If mom comes home at night and immediately mixes a martini, wine is served every night at dinner, or dad puts away a six-pack on a Saturday afternoon, your children notice.
If there’s no designated drive children see that. Children observe their parents from a very young age, and they follow patterns that are familiar to them.
“We do a lot of things in front of our kids we are not supposed to do. You have to remember that kids are influenced by who and what is around them,” says Dr. Mitch, executive director of C.A.R.E. Florida, a treatment facility in North Palm Beach. “It sends the wrong message when parents ask kids to go and get them a beer.”
Drinking surrounds children from the day that they’re born, points out Ian Newman, director of the Nebraska Prevention Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse at the University of Nebraska.
“There is no point in sitting kids down and talking to them about alcohol in middle school if you are not thinking about the value structure you’ve created for them at home, both formally and informally in pre and elementary school. Alcohol is a normal part of life for most people and we must be more aware of how our drinking affects our kids,” Newman explains.
I have friends who drink and smoke in front of their kids all the time. At parties, the bottles pile up as do the cigarette butts. They grew up with it and they continue to do what they know. But the big question is how will affect their kids behavior? My bet is they'll drink and smoke too.
I never have more than a glass of wine or two in front of my kids. Why? Well I don't have much tolerance to begin with but more than that I want them to know that their mom is a responsible drinker. Once in awhile on weekend night, I'll get a call from my teenage son asking me if I can pick him up somewhere.
If I've had a couple of drinks I will tell him so - and ask if someone else can drive him home or if can spend the night at a friend's That way he knows, I practice what I preach.