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As a mother of two young girls, ages 4 and 3, thankfully, this is not an issue I’m grappling with at the moment. But coming from a family that has suffered from alcoholism and remembering far too many college keg parties that ended in a blur, I find the question intriguing: Would it make sense to drink a little bit with my kids, when they are in their teens, as a way of demystifying drinking and perhaps reducing the chances they’ll binge drink in high school, college or later in life?
You might remember a Time Magazine story, “Should You Drink with Your Kids?" In the extensive article, the author cited research, including a study by North Carolina researchers, which involved surveys of more than 6,000 people ages 16 to 20 in 242 communities around the country. The study found that if kids drank with their parents -- maybe a small amount of wine or beer during dinner -- they were about half as likely to say they drank alcohol in the past month and about one third as likely to say they had had five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks.
Before you uncork the wine, though, be aware that “social host” laws have sprung up all over the U.S. These laws vary by state but generally hold residents (both minors and adults) responsible – with punishment ranging from fines to jail time -- for any underage drinking that occurs in their home. And many of the laws make no exception for parents who choose to drink with their kids: They too could be fined or jailed.
Even if there were no such laws, as a parent it’s hard not to worry that by introducing alcohol – wine or beer or anything else -- you might be introducing your children to something they might enjoy, and enjoy so much they seek it out even when they are not with you. Still, since just about every college kid – and many kids in high school – already seek it out anyway, it may be worth pondering if there’s something to the concept of drinking with your kids. It's something European families have been doing for years and, perhaps, the evidence is on their side. According to the Time report, Italy and Spain have much lower rates of alcohol dependence or abuse than the U.S. (although France had a higher rate than the U.S., and you’d expect many French families to be drinking Cabernet with their kids).
Thankfully, my decision is still a long way off. But for many of you with tweens and teens, kids and alcohol may be one of your top concerns. So what do you think? Is drinking with your kids a good or a bad idea? Please take our poll and chime in below. Your comments and our poll results may be included in an upcoming national news report.