Teaching Teens to Avoid Alcohol
- Saturday, March 31, 2012
Recently I read an article about a new trend in America—parents allowing their teens to drink at home. Apparently, the idea behind this is that drinking in the home setting will demystify alcohol and help the young people learn to drink responsibly.
Before I tell you what I think about that trend, let me share this fact with you. 11% of the alcohol consumed in the United States is consumed by underage kids. That’s a staggering statistic. Alcohol abuse among teens is becoming an enormous problem in America.
With that in mind, here is my comment on parents letting or even encouraging their teenagers to drink at home. With all the kindness and Christian charity this Texan can muster I ask these parents: Are you nuts? If you follow that same line of thinking, then you’ll also allow them to have sex at home, take drugs at home, lie and cheat at home. That’s just crazy!
It reminds me of a recent graduation party I heard about for some kids from a Christian school. The parents provided all the alcohol the kids could drink, reasoning that if they drank at the party and gave them a ride home, they’d not be out on the streets drinking and driving. Not only was this a stupid idea, it landed the parents in jail (and rightly so!).
Since they cannot buy it, where do kids find alcohol? According to government statistics, 56% of current underage drinkers (ages 12-20) reported that their last use of alcohol occurred in someone else’s home; 30% reported that it occurred in their own home. 21% were given it by a parent, guardian, or other adult family member.
Teens will interpret the permission to drink at home (or in their friends’ homes) as permission and training to do it elsewhere. It won’t teach them responsibility; it is going to teach them to drink even more. In fact, for some kids it can build a taste and desire in them for alcohol throughout their lives. Your teen doesn’t need any more encouragement to use alcohol at their age than they’re getting already.
I am a teen advocate. My career revolves around helping teens and their parents deal with serious issues, and I have seen too many broken hearts and wounded lives as a result of teen alcohol use to take it casually. A teen’s maturity level is simply not developed enough to make good decisions regarding alcohol. The physical changes to their brains and bodies that they are undergoing mean they cannot properly assess the impact drinking is having on them. And that’s why a kid can be sent off to war at age 18, but by law still cannot drink until age 21. Even so, today’s teen culture is swimming in a sea of alcohol use because the law is rarely enforced.
Regardless of your position on alcohol use by adults (and I know many good people draw that line in different places) I don’t think there’s any question that it is utterly irresponsible for a parent to encourage or give permission to a teen to drink at home. And this especially holds true if there has been anyone in their family on either side who has had a lifelong struggle with alcohol, since this trait could have been passed on to the teen.
Several of the kids at Heartlight at any given time are here primarily because of issues that come from drinking. I asked one of them the other day why she started drinking, and she said, “Because of the people I hung around with.” In order to fit in, this sixteen year old girl began using alcohol despite what her parents had taught her and the fact that her older brother had died in a drunk driving accident.
She said, “I was scared to say no. I didn’t want to be the outsider.” Your teen is going to face a challenge like that; so have you prepared them for it?
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