Every so often, I read something about how this country could cut down on binge drinking by college students if parents would just allow their teens to experience small amounts of alcoholic beverages at home and learn how to drink responsibly.
This month in the Lake Oswego Review, a teen wrote a piece pointing out that kids in Europe start drinking at home at an early age. And if only kids didn’t have to be put up with scare tactics from their parents, they’d be so much better off and not have to go crazy once they’re out of the house and on to college.
I agree with the young author on the scare tactics part. Good information and education doesn’t have to be freightening or threatening. But almost everything else he got wrong big time.
Here’s the reality:
*European countries have major problems with alcoholism and underage binge drinking – a lot worse than here. Most governments there are starting to crack down on underage drinking, alcohol sales, and driving under the influence. So much for how wonderful it is to allow kids to drink at home.
*Medical science has discovered in just the past ten years that there is a direct correlation between the age a person begins drinking and whether he or she experiences alcohol problems as an adult. The top national experts in the addictions field say a kid who starts drinking at 15 or 16 has a five times bigger chance of grappling with alcohol addiction as an adult. The adolescent brain is a developing brain, and alcohol and/or drugs absolutely affects several aspects of brain development.
*If parents allow their kids to drink at home, it is enabling an activity that is not only dangerous to the health of that kid, but illegal. There are good reasons why you can’t – or shouldn’t – drink until you’re 21.
If parents really want to be successful in preventing their kids from abusing alcohol, they need to help change the culture that says drinking is a right of passage and start talking to their kids early and often. Parents are the biggest influence on kids – yeah, even bigger than peer pressure.
There is a reason why the percentage of young people smoking cigarettes continues to drop. Since kindergarden, they’ve learned how unhealthy it is. I dare say parents wouldn’t tell their kids it’s OK to light up a cigarette after dinner. The same should hold true for underage drinking.
Pete Schulberg, Communications Director