Parenting and Underage Drinking

Parents often feel that they should be able to decide what is best for their children, even when their opinion goes against what is considered lawful. Many parents also feel the need to please their children, making it difficult for a parent to firmly say no. Parents often find themselves in difficult positions when their underage children are confronted with the option of drinking alcoholic beverages.

When their children express an interest in drinking alcoholic beverages at home, many parents feel that as long as their children are under their supervision, it is okay to purchase and provide alcohol for their children and their friends. What these parents do not realize is that many teens end up abusing alcohol and suffering from severe alcohol poisoning or death-even when drinking in their own homes or in the home of a friend.

Parents should begin talking to their children about alcohol at an early age. They should explain what alcohol is and its effects. However, they should not overly emphasize that alcohol is restricted for young people because this, in most cases, will only increase a child or teenager’s desire to drink.

Laws intended to discourage parents from purchasing and/or providing alcohol for persons under the age of 21, even if they are their own children, are now in place. These laws, which are knows as social host liability laws, hold parents responsible and make them legally accountable for purchasing alcohol for anyone who is under the age of 21.

In many states, parents may find themselves subject to criminal prosecution for failing to prohibit the drinking of alcoholic beverages by persons under the age of 21 anywhere on their property. Parents may be held responsible for underage drinking that goes on in their homes, even if they are not present.

Although parents may feel that their teenager is intelligent and old enough to make his or her own decisions, research shows that at this age, the brain is still very much in a developmental phase. This means that high school students have not yet reached a level of maturity that would allow them to make all decisions without the consent or approval of a parent or mentor. It also means that the young brain is affected more by alcohol than the brain of an older person. Parents should realize that allowing their children to begin drinking at an earlier age can put them at risk for underdevelopment of important skills.