That is the question…
So your teen has asked if they can host a party at your home. They have picked the date and time, created and guest list and asked you to pick up snacks and beverages for the event. Then they approach you with “the alcohol question,” and as a parent you need to be ready. Do you serve alcohol OR more realistic question – do you allow them to bring their own alcohol for consumption in your home…? The quick answer is NO. Alcohol is illegal until you are 18. So – unless all the kids attending the party and your child is 18 – it is a no brainer – right??
Ha – but not so fast! Before I was the parent of a teen, quite honestly, I thought the decision was clear and the “law” would help me enforce my rules. Now, I am the parent of an 18 year old, 16 year old and 13 year old. For the purposes of C and D I am taking the “no” side of this issue, but this doesn’t mean I am any less conflicted nor that I see a right or wrong answer to this parenting conundrum.
Suppose you had a black and white approach to this issue as is stated above. The answer is no – so if your teen wants to have a party – they have to tell friends they will be checked at the door, they will not be allowed in with any alcohol and they will be asked to leave if they are found drinking. If your values on alcohol are strong and fastidious, then you probably are not conflicted on this issue at all. You don’t allow alcohol, you don’t allow your teen to drink it, nor will you supply it or allow it to be consumed in your home. So – that being said, if I did not drink, if my husband did not drink and if we planned all of our social activities to not include alcohol the decision might be easier because, not allowing alcohol at a party for teens in my home, would be – normal, expected and even anticipated by the teen. You would assume that the teen (who has grown up in an alcohol free home) would not even be thinking about drinking let alone having a party that would include consumption of alcohol. While that might be true for some young adults, for the most part teens take this time in their lives to experiment and often to challenge the constraints they grew up with. They are also faced with peer pressure, wanting to fit in and their burgeoning sexuality – never mind the social media factor. So the consequences for a parent not allowing teens to drink in their home (again, I didn’t say supplying, just drinking) could be that your teen might drink elsewhere, or they may not host any get togethers at your home for fear that no one would attend. Again, don’t miss understand the word “consequence” to be negative in connotation. It is not necessarily a negative thing. I have known parents that have taken this strong stance. I admire it. They know what the fall out could be and they are pushing through with their values in tact. They are committed to not being a FRIEND to their teen but rather their teacher, moral compass and value guider. Their kids still grow up with friends and social lives. Their teen managed just fine. This doesn’t mean their kids didn’t drink before they were 18. It just means they didn’t do it at home.
Our family has a somewhat middle of the road approach to drinking versus the all or nothing approach (which there in lies my conflict). My husband and I enjoy red wine, and scotch. In the evenings, when we are home we often enjoy a bottle of wine – even during the week. This being said, our children have not been invited to partake in this during dinner or otherwise (nor have they asked to). Full disclosure – when our oldest was approaching 18 he occasionally had a light beer on a Friday night if he was not going out. In addition, we have an EXTREMELY tough stance on drinking and driving and we have modelled this for our kids since they were born. We almost always take alternative transportation when we go out. Our philosophy is that our kids WATCH and learn almost more than anything we try and teach them through conversation. The things they see as important to us through our own actions are probably what stick with them most. We choose to teach alcohol consumption via moderation. We are modelling that alcohol is ok providing you drink in a safe spot, you are not driving and you don’t go too crazy. Does this mean my child won’t go over the top at a party experimenting with shots and drinking games? No – it doesn’t. Just like if I don’t allow alcohol to be consumed in our home by teens, does it mean they will never binge drink or drink at all.
Parents that DO allow alcohol in their homes for their older teens use the excuse that they are “going to do it anyway – I would rather it be in my home where I can keep an eye on it.” Other thoughts are that this approach somehow prevents binge drinking and takes the forbidden ness out of it – which makes it not as appealing to them as a lifestyle choice. For every study on the pro side, you will find one that supports the con side, so really there is no right answer to this.
I guess as a parent, our job is to look at the kid, the consequences, the possible outcomes of both sides and determine what works best for our own family and coincides with our own values. And then once you’ve made your choice – hold on for the ride.