Should parents drink with their teenage kids?
Should parents drink in front of their teenage kids?
I'm still going to go with no.
And you know why? Because teenagers are very, very stupid. Have you had a conversation with a teenager lately? Spent any time with them at all? Because if you have, you would know their brains don't really work—at least not well. They have this weird condition where they truly can't see the logical consequences of their actions but believe whole-heartedly that they can.
In fact, I didn't need to see the statistical study concerning teens who drink with their parents (which I would file in my no-shit-study folder). All I needed to know I learned from Roper v. Simmons, a Supreme Court case from 2006. In this case, the Court found that the 8th Amendment to the Constitution forbids the execution of criminals for crimes committed while they were juveniles. They decided it was cruel and unusual punishment and they based their decision largely on science that showed teenagers brains don't process actions and consequences like an adult. Their frontal lobes literally aren't working yet.
They can't assess risk like adults. Grey areas of reasoning ("Do as I say, not as I do.") just don't compute with them. And you don't get more grey than with "you can drink with me around, but not out on your own." OR (I would argue) "I can drink (or get drunk) because I'm an adult but you can't." They need black and white. Cut and dry. Don't drink or I will kill you. I will kill you if you drink. See how that works? Gotta keep it simple.
I grew up in a family that didn't drink. I never saw a sip of alcohol pass my mother's or stepfather's lips until far into my adulthood. (My mother decided to take up drinking in her 50s. Go figure.) Many members of my extended family drank, but it was never a necessary part of an evening or celebration for my parents. They were always the life of the party and stone cold sober. And I am so thankful for that.
I didn't sneak off in high school and get drunk. I didn't rush away to college and throw caution to the wind. In fact, I never actually got drunk until my 21st birthday. To this day, I enjoy a glass of wine but it is certainly not something I need to have a good time. I can honestly say I could never drink alcohol again and it wouldn't bother me that much. (Chocolate, on the other hand, is a WHOLE other story.)
My husband and I have talked a lot about how we will raise our own kids. Not surprisingly, I would like to raise them the way I was raised. He's on board with not drinking with or around teenagers but doesn't see the harm when they are younger. For now, we both still drink in front of Griffin and I'm not sure when we will draw the line in the sand.
Either way, I promise you when he turns 13 the message will be simple.
If you drink, I will kill you.
After all, gotta keep it simple.
- Sarah Stewart Holland
Should parents drink with their teenage kids?
Recently when working at my office—a local coffee shop—I overheard two parents openly discussing their regular enjoyment of pot (and, no, I don’t mean the ceramic kind). Of course, I’m not surprised by this pair’s revelations—I do live in Los Angeles where medicinal marijuana dispensaries dot the street and the fictional Nancy Botwins of the world fight their suburban, stay-at-home mom image by dealing to locals. And while I’m not here to comment or pass judgment on these informed adults’ choice to follow the Snoop Dogg treatise on rest and relaxation, their conversation made me wonder if role modeling responsible and moderate consumption of a joint, dirty martini, Marlboro Red, or even a supersized burger and fries positively or negatively affects a child’s likelihood of addiction.
According to a recent article published in Time, parents who allow adult-supervised drinking among their children surprisingly fail to teach lessons about using alcohol responsibly and instead are handing over a “license to imbibe.” The study cited by Time reveals that while one thinks that teens would adopt responsible habits by drinking with their parents, the kids in reality lack the maturity to handle alcohol consumption in a social setting sans Mom and Dad—they don’t know how to say “no” to more than one beer or their friends. The study even implies that kids who drink with their parents are more likely to abuse the substance than those whose parents instituted a zero tolerance policy.
I often take studies with a grain of salt, especially because the statistical data generally doesn’t jibe with what we witness in our daily lives. I’ve known people who were raised in households free of all vices yet end up with serious addiction problems, and I’ve also known people whose parents used drugs, smoked cigarettes, or drank heavily on a daily basis but they would never touch the stuff. In many ways, I think friends have more influence than the parents do on kids' eating, drinking, drug use, and other social habits.
Even so (and, yes, go ahead and call me old fashioned), I think it's a bad idea for kids to witness their parents enjoying bouts of excess (I'm not talking about a glass of vino with dinner) or to partake as equals in any guilty pleasure. Otherwise, you're bound to find yourself in a "do as I say, not as I do" situation because at some point you'll have undermined your authority as a parent — could you take your parents seriously if you saw them hitting a bong, doing a keg stand, or eating McDonald's for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Didn't think so.
What do you think? When it comes down to it, should parents openly use and discuss their guilty pleasures in front of their children, should they keep it behind closed doors, or not do it period? Is it the gateway to (over)use or a smart way to teach that it’s not taboo? Are the parents in the coffee shop simply dazed and confused and destined to have a Lindsay Lohan on their hands?
~ The Other Sarah