SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal-Health Journal
Parents teach their children how to swim, how to ride a bicycle and how to drive. Should they also teach their teenagers how to drink responsibly?
The volatile issue is seldom discussed at alcohol-awareness programs. But some parents do quietly allow their teens to have wine or beer at home occasionally, figuring that kids who drink in moderation with their family may be less likely to binge on their own.
Many other parents argue that underage drinking of any kind is dangerous and illegal, and that parents who allow it are sending an irresponsible message that could set teens up for alcohol abuse in later years.
U.S. government surveys have started tracking where and how teenagers obtain alcohol—and that at least some of the time, parents are the suppliers.
Nearly 6% of 12- to 14-year-olds—some 700,000 middle-schoolers—drank alcohol in the past month. And nearly 45% of them got it free at home, including 16% who obtained it from a parent or guardian, according to a report released last month by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The survey doesn’t report how much alcohol was involved or what the circumstances were.
"This report isn’t designed to say, ‘Bad parents!’ It’s designed to say, ‘Here’s an issue you should pay attention to,’ " says Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. "When kids under age 15 start drinking and drinking heavily, they are about six times more likely to end up with alcohol problems."
Still, some parents think it’s inevitable that teenagers will experiment with alcohol and worry that a message of abstinence doesn’t stand a chance against a barrage of social pressures and media messages glamorizing drinking. By the time they turn 21, 86% of American youths have used alcohol, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and 50% are binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks in a single session for men, and four or more for women.
If teens don’t learn to drink responsibly at home, some parents fear they will learn on their own, in a club or private party, where there are few restraints.
Stanton Peele, a psychologist and author of books on addiction, also questions whether any kind of drinking before age 15 carries the same six-fold risk of alcohol problems. "There’s a giant difference between a kid who gets totally wasted on some purloined booze in the woods with his friends, and someone who has wine at dinner with their parents or as part of a religious ceremony," he says.
Although the minimum drinking age is officially 21 in all 50 states, 31 states allow parents to furnish alcohol to minors, and 30 allow minors to drink for religious purposes.
Although the minimum drinking age is 21 in all 50 states, 31 states allow parents, guardians or spouses to furnish alcohol to minors. In seven of the 31 states, that’s permissible only in a private residence.CTCADA offers both adolescent intervention and treatment programs. Education, individual counseling, family therapy, group counseling and referral to other resources are all part of a comprehensive effort to prevent or intervene in youth alcohol and drug abuse. Call us at 254-690-4455!