Underage drinking – can it be managed responsibly at home?

I recently blogged about proposals to lower the drinking age in several states (“States Weigh Lower Drinking Age“), many with some caveats.

Last week, Eric Asimov, the New York Times wine writer took things a step further when he wrote an article “Can Sips At Home Prevent Binges?”.

The topic is especially relevant this time of year considering the upcoming Passover Seder and its mandated 4 cups of wine. As a teen I remember drinking too much at a seder. I have memories of friends & cousins drinking too much at one of our seders. And just about anyone I know who attended a seder as a teen or even pre-teen has a story that ended in someone’s ghostly pale head hunched over a toilet bowl or garbage can.

Asimov brought up some interesting points such as whether to”…preach abstinence to children until they’re 21 – is it naive and even irresponsible to think that teenagers won’t experiment? Might forbidding even a taste of wine with a meal actually encourage secrecy and recklessness?” My answer to his rhetorical question is a resounding YES!

Asimov interviewed Dr. Paul Steinberg, a psychiatrist in Washington, and former director of counseling at Georgetown University who said that “The best evidence shows that teaching kids to drink responsibly is better than shutting them off entirely from it…you want to introduce your kids to it, and get across the point that this is to be enjoyed but not abused.”

Many of my contemporaries have young kids and are dealing with this issue all in their own way. I have friends who dab their pinkie in wine or whiskey and give their young child a drop or two. I have also seen parents offer young children a sip from the Sabbath kiddush wine. Within moderation I believe that these are good first steps in removing the “forbidden fruit” temptations kids might associate with alcoholic beverages.

But there should be more. Kids will never adhere to “do as I say, not as I do”. It will not help a parent to introduce their kids to alcohol in moderation if they themselves don’t drink in moderation. My studies in psychology were limited to undergraduate courses so I do not profess to be an expert, but we all know that kids mimic the behaviors they see at home. Whether it is hitting, yelling, drinking or smoking. If a parent does it the kid is very likely to do it.

Since transitioning into the wine industry I generally will enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. It has gotten to the point that if I am enjoying a nice meal without a glass of wine I feel like something is missing. What is that famous quote “a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine”?? Something like that.

I have been asked by friends and acquaintances if I drink more since getting into the business. My response is generally that yes, I drink more frequently, but I also consume less per sitting. Getting that “buzz” isn’t as exciting or even taboo as it may once have been.

What I am advocating here is regular, moderated & responsible drinking. I don’t believe kids should be encouraged to drink, but I also don’t think it should be strictly forbidden. If wine is something that is regularly in front of kids & teens and requests for tastes are granted, I believe that most well raised kids will not drink excessively when faced with the opportunity.

Just my thoughts. I welcome any comments & subsequent discussion.

In the meantime, happy responsible drinking!!


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