PARENTS SHOULD NOT INTRODUCE ALCOHOL TO THEIR CHILDREN AT HOME
"Would you introduce your kids to alcohol (wine) around the dinner table at the age of 13?" is a question I was asked this morning on radio BBC Scotland.
Apparently, a recent study shows that more and more parents are allowing their teenager kids to drink alcohol at home during family meals, hoping that introducing them to it early will prevent them from abusing alcohol when they are older.
The rational behind this logic is that a child who drinks alcohol at an early age will for one, not like it, and secondly - not see it as a big deal and hence not consume it as much later in life (basically it's the old 'if you tell a kid they can't have it they're going to want it even more' theory).
When you ask parents about this many have other reasons for allowing there teens to have alcohol - main one being wanting to be there when their kids get drunk for the first time rather than it happening with friends at a random party (the old 'I would rather they did it in my house' theory). And some parents talk about it being a culture thing (like in France and Italy or even during Friday night dinners at Jewish families).
I can sort of see the logic in all of the above but I disagree and I will explain why.
For one, according to experts the idea that introducing your child to alcohol, for example with a glass of wine at the dinner table, will take away the novelty and deter binge drinking is a myth. It is simply not true. In fact, in many cases drinking early in life triggers a long lasting dependency on alcohol. And if you want to go by France for example which is a wine loving nation as an example to a country where people start drinking early at home, well the county’s rates of alcohol dependence and binge drinking exceed those in the UK.
On top, people need to remember that alcohol affects children faster than adults not just in terms of their normal development, but also their vital organs and functions, including the brain, liver, bones and hormones. It is also linked to their mental health, can lead to feelings of depression among children and it can also affect their performance at school. In short - they are not ready to cope with it both physically and mentally at such an early age.
I also think that parents should wait to be asked, rather than offer 'too much information' for no reason. In other words - why suggest to a 13 year old to have a sip of wine if it wasn't even on heir minds? Why assume they would necessarily want to drink in the first place? I'm not being naive by the way, I am well aware of under age drinking (guess who stole the vodka from her mom's liquor cabinet at 15?), but the fact is that more and more young people are choosing not to drink, and if anything - they need to be supported!
I also think that the best way to teach a child something about ANYTHING is by example. You don't have to give them wine to teach them how to "use it" correctly - they are already watching YOU. And if you abuse alcohol (binge drink, over drink, drink and drive, get violent etc) - that's what they are learning. No matter what you say to them when you try to "educate them" about alcohol, it will be too little too late. I also think that when it comes to teaching kids about topics that some parents find problematic (alcohol, drugs, sex etc), the best approach is always having an open ONGOING dialogue about it. In other words, you don't have to hand them the bottle, but be open and honest when they ask you about your experiences and what they have questions about.
But most of all I think it's not our job to be our kids' mates who sit around the table with them doing shots (okay having a glass of wine during a meal) while they are still children - and yes, a teenager is still a child.
I think that when it comes to drugs (legal or not and yes alcohol is 100% a drug - classed as a depressant, meaning that it slows down vital functions—resulting in slurred speech, unsteady movement, disturbed perceptions and an inability to react quickly), it's one thing knowing that our kids will one day probably try out some of them and be open to talk about the risks and our own experiences, and another matter to hand them over at such an early age.
I think that for many of us who grew up to parents who were all about parental authority, we may have gone slightly too far towards the other way... (and I say this as someone who is extremely liberal as you know).
What I mean is this - your kids have only one set of parents (whatever that 'set' structure may be), and on the other hand, they have loads of friends. They don't need you to be their mates. They need you to SOMETIMES be the one who sets the boundaries. This does not mean that you should not be open about all matters with your kids - I 100% think we should talk to our kids about everything and allow them to feel safe that they can come speak at any time and about anything. But we should not try to be 'cool parents' who are our kids best friends while they are young and still need us to be parents.
Let me know what you think?!