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Drinking with Your Teenager

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Some parents like to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with their teens ... and in many states, they can.


Although people under 21 cannot buy alcohol in the United States, alcohol consumption laws vary wildly from state to state. As of January 1, 2007, 14 states and the District of Columbia ban underage consumption outright, 19 states do not specifically ban underage consumption, and an additional 27 states have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage consumption laws (for instance, teens can drink if they're with their parents). Check out your state's alcohol consumption law here.

Wisconsin perhaps has the most liberal alcohol consumption laws of all. There, minors can drink alcohol in a bar or restaurant if they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who gives consent. While there is no state law setting a minimum age, bartenders can use their discretion in deciding whom to serve.

Bartender Mike Whaley tells The New York Times there were some cases where he had to say no to a parent. "I've had situations where a parent was going to buy drinks for a kid who looked 8 or 10 years old," he said, "and I had to say, 'That's a no-go.' "


But even if you can serve your own teens alcohol in your home state, that doesn't mean you can break out the beer or bubbly at a teen's party. "Parents can be held liable for providing alcohol to minors," Glynn Birch, national president of MADD, told momlogic. "MADD suggests checking the social host laws in your states. Social Host Liability is a law that imposes potential liability on adults as a result of their serving alcohol to minors who subsequently are involved in crashes causing death or injury to third parties." Click here to search social host laws in your area.

Many feel that teaching kids responsible drinking is better than forbidding it altogether. But others think providing teens with alcohol is tantamount to child abuse.

Do you think drinking with your teen is a good idea? Comment in the momlogic community.

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny November 18, 2008, 4:28 PM

Honestly I see nothing wrong with letting my daughter have a glass (ONE) of wine at dinner when she is 15 or 16. I dont see anything wrong with giving her a taste of beer or whatever else either. I believe its the mystery and the sense of doing something forbidden that leads some kids to drink and want to abuse alcohol.

Anonymous November 18, 2008, 7:46 PM

NO! I drank with my parents, and especially with my alcoholic father when he came home from work at night. I became an alcoholic myself, what the AAers call a maintenance drinker, by the time I was sixteen. I just had to have my fix every night. And my parents were all offended they had spawned someone like me, especially as I was getting expensive to keep.

Kirstie November 18, 2008, 8:54 PM

My parents were never afraid to let us see what was going on .. when we were small, if we were curious we could dip a finger into Mom’s wine or Dad’s beer and taste it - and usually didn’t like it. The taste was always accompanied with a reminder that it’s a grown up drink.

By 16 or 17, I could have a glass of wine with dinner on special occasions. Now I’m 19, almost 20, and in college. I’m allowed to have a glass of wine on Christmas with my parents if I’d like it, or an eggnog punch with my dad. In the summertime I’m allowed to have a beer or two during Scrabble night out on the deck with my parents, or a glass of wine with my mom when we get home from work (we work together in a catering hall, when I’m home from school). Nothing in any large amount, and the practical way my parents have always approached the topic of drinking has made me more responsible then most of my friends away at school - on occasion I have a beer to be social at school, but 99% of the time I’m the one playing mom to everyone who’s drank to excess. Modeling healthy attitudes to alcohol is the best method - if you make it a deep, dark secret it makes it so much more interesting to try!

Jenny November 19, 2008, 9:09 AM

Maybe the issue is that your parents let you drink knowing there were alcohol abuse issues in your family? As far as I know that tends to be genetic so maybe that wasnt the best thing for them to do for you. But for a child who doesnt have a predisposition to alchoholism I think it can help them learn to be responsible about it.

amanda November 19, 2008, 1:53 PM

I think children should be able to have some time of alcohol while their parents are around within reason. Many other countries allow this and it doesnt cause as much of problems as we have here in the states.

Perry P. Perkins October 16, 2009, 7:00 PM

I had my first drinks with my dad. Rum & Coke at about 12/13.

He took the mystery out of it, and we talked about the pros and cons of drinking, about being a responsible drinker, and about alcoholism, during those drinks.

He made it clear that when/if I was curious about a drink (or most anything) I could come to him.


Kayleigh Jane Herbertson October 17, 2009, 12:17 AM

I’m english, so I’ve been legal since 18 and I really think the strict laws of America create this really weird underground drinking society. When I visited a friend at an american Uni I’ve never been offered more booze and drugs in my life. I tried drinking at 14, where my parents encouraged me to try toffee vodka for new years. I think being relaxed about it encourages youths to make up their own minds, plus it gives them experience of drinking *without* the inevitable peer pressure they will get.

al April 24, 2010, 5:37 PM

Holy! Anonymous, you are my life’s story! Exactly the same. No wonder we find ourselves reflected in those present when we go to AA. Not terribly comfortable, I might add.

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