We’ve all heard the rationale that some parents use for allowing their teens to drink alcohol under some circumstances, such as at home or on vacation in a country with more permissive laws regarding alcohol:

“I’m teaching my child to drink responsibly.”
“If my child is old enough to serve in the military, he should be able to drink alcohol.”
“I drank alcohol when I was a teen and I don’t have an alcohol problem now.”
Many parents say such things in order to defend their own beliefs and actions in how they choose to raise their children and also because they feel that what they do in the privacy of their own home is their own business.

These parents may even point to some research that suggests that children who are allowed to drink at home under parental supervision don’t feel the same sense of rebellious excitement in using alcohol at parties as do their peers who are forbidden to drink and in fact, are less likely to regularly use or abuse alcohol at all.

Even so, the reasons for not allowing your child to drink — under any circumstances, until she is 21 — are more persuasive than any rationale for allowing your teen to consume alcoholic beverages. Here’s why:

  • Providing alcohol to your teen at home, even in states where this is not against the law, implies that drinking is important and that everyone drinks. If you want to teach your children about alcohol, teach them that it’s not necessary to drink in order to have fun — and model this for them. It’s more important to practice NOT drinking than learning how to drink, because only a small part of adult life should be spent drinking.
  • Adolescent brains are vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Your teenager’s brain is still changing and growing. Long term or heavy drinking can cause both short term and long term and irreversible effects on your child’s brain. Those teens that regularly binge on alcohol have more problems with vocabulary, memory, memory retrieval, and learning. They also have an increased risk of social problems such as unprotected sex, depression, and violence, and a greater risk of problem drinking in adulthood.
  • You could be in trouble with the law if your child is harmed in any way by drinking alcohol. You could be charged with child endangerment if your teen’s use of alcohol results in physical, psychological, emotional or cognitive injury — or even a risk of such injury.

The lesson for wise parents is that allowing your child to drink alcohol in any circumstance is enabling something that is unhealthy, possibly dangerous, and in most cases, against the law. Keep your teens safe by adopting a “no use” policy — and helping your child to stick with it.