Teenagers & Alcohol: What Approach Will You Take?

Last week I wrote about quitting alcohol to save my sanity and the sanity of those around me due to the fact that alcohol (particularly white wine) had the tendency to make me behave like a woman in the throes of a particularly bad bout of PMS all the time.

I pinpointed it back to alcohol about a year ago and managed to quit for a substantial length of time but as soon as summer hit I was back on the bottle (not in an alcoholic way but certainly in a I NEED A DRINK way where I craved it madly after a manic day of work, when the sun was shining and the kids were screaming at each other). Unfortunately, the end result was a mama who was relaxed for an hour but grumpy as hell for a several days to a week afterwards.

I knew I needed to quit.

So with alcohol on my mind I eagerly clicked over to a post that caught my attention on Rebecca Bowyer’s page Seeing the Lighter Side titled Quitting wine can stop your kids underage drinking cos ya know, any other positive outcome I can get from begrudgingly giving up my favourite tipple is fine by me! I can be the mum who doesn’t drink to save her kids from alcohol later in life (ha!).

To sum it up, Deakin University health experts in Australia have found that we (that would be us ‘the parents’) have a big effect on how our children view alcohol consumption.


“An evaluation of the Smart Generation alcohol education campaign aimed at parents found that children had clearer intentions not to use alcohol prior to 18 and less alcohol use if their parents opened up the conversation about why they shouldn’t drink, set household rules and didn’t provide their kids with alcohol at home or to take to parties,” Professor Toumbourou said.

They also go on to say:


It is a complete myth that providing under age children with alcohol in the home will teach them moderation. In fact research shows the opposite to be true, with children whose parents allowed them to drink more likely to be heavier drinkers later on than those whose parents said no.

This of course got me thinking about my own experience as a teenager where alcohol was concerned and is definitely something that my husband and I have discussed. What direction do we want to go in when it comes to educating our own sons about alcohol as they get older? We have two boys, so of course alcohol is going to be involved in their teenage years. I think it would be naive to think otherwise!

Teenage Girl

Regarding the study, my mum was a wine drinker and my step-dad favored a beer (though there were spirits in the liquor cabinet which I admit I may have got into a few times without their knowledge!).

I can’t remember what age we were allowed the odd shandy (beer and lemonade) or a small glass of wine on Christmas Day or other special occasions, but I grew up in a household where alcohol was casually consumed on occasion and wasn’t a big deal. To be honest I never thought much about it and can’t say as a child it enticed me to want to drink it.

I didn’t go to a highly regarded school by any means, and to be honest education was pretty far down my list of my priorities (though I managed to skate through ok and win a few awards and be deputy head girl and pass most things until my last year when I completely dropped the ball). But really, my social life was right up there at the top of the list and there was a different party to go to every other weekend of which I was allowed to attend and of which my mum was fully aware there would be alcohol.

She never provided it for me but she knew it would be accessible (I can’t even remember how we got it but it was never hard!).

I had my first beer (aside from the odd shandy, 1 part beer/3 parts lemonade!) at age 14 and promptly spewed in the bushes (yes, after just one beer!). I don’t think I touched alcohol much again after that experience until I was about 16 and I’m pretty sure I was a pretty responsible drinker for the most part (my friends may beg to differ!) but I can say that I was never afraid to tell my mum where I was going and who with and the lenience of their attitude to my attending parties meant I was actually pretty good at being open and honest with her about things.

My friends who were forbidden on the other hand were found to be climbing out their bedroom windows and running away from home occasionally! Having said that though, I don’t know who turned out better in the long run! I can’t definitively say whether my friends who’s parents didn’t drink were more likely to drink in excess or have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol as they have got older or are less likely to drink but I can say that the lenience of parents who didn’t make it taboo and were a bit more relaxed made for more open children as teenagers in the communication stakes.

At the other end of the scale, there were the ones who’s parents literally didn’t care what they got up to. This from a friend:


I think that a lot of it has to do with home stability as well. I was allowed to do whatever I liked.. Which I resented to be honest, I wished that my parents were more protective and cared what I was up to. It created for me instability, an inability to control the amount and never act responsibly and then not knowing what my boundaries were… I was a complete wreck every single time I was drunk! It led to growing up fast in an immature mindset. Without tools of mature decision making and also not knowing how to deal with bad situations in a productive way. Although I didn’t have a child until I was in my mid 20’s, I feel that my parents lack of parenting led to a dependency on broken people, bad relationships and also a problem with treating everyone like they were expendable because it felt as if life stopped after college, scrambling to figure out what I was supposed to do next. My objectivity was always defined by negative instinct so nothing ever seemed to work out and I had an unrealistic view of reality.

Let’s be honest, the majority (not all, but a good handful!) of us experimented with alcohol as a teenager.

  • Did your parents drink?
  • How many of you were allowed and how many were forbidden?
  • Did you listen or did you disobey?
  • Were you deceitful or honest with your parents about what you were up to?
  • Did it shape your future relationship with alcohol?

Teenage Boy

I’m interested to know what approach you plan to take with your own kids based on your experiences growing up!

Both my husband and I were brought up with a similar approach by our parents: You’re allowed to go as long as you be honest about where you are going. If you get in trouble, call us.

My husband had a free ride everywhere with his parents so he knew he could call on his dad at any time of the day or night to pick him up and I think he would like to implement the same approach as he says it stopped him getting in cars with idiots in order to get home and avoid other dodgy situations.

Does this mean we will be encouraging it though? Of course not!

Perhaps the school we attended has given us a take on things that differed from a school where education is highly regarded and therefore students have a different attitude.

But we have boys and we know they’ll experiment (the probability will be higher with boys I’m sure, girls make more mature decisions!).

So would I rather they had a beer at home with us than snuck down the beach with a mate and a dozen? Yes I would.

What about you? Did you drink much as a teenager? Will your experience influence your decision making for your own children?

Linking up with #IBOT @ Essentially Jess

51 thoughts on “Teenagers & Alcohol: What Approach Will You Take?

  1. I have a nearly 16 old and this has come up already. She hasn’t asked me to drink (as at this stage I would say no) but some of her friends do. I request honest AT ALL TIMES. I need to know where you are and who you are with or you have then lost my respect. I will not buy my children alcohol but saying NO is sure fire way for them to do it anyway. We talk about these things often and I hope when the times comes (and I know time is coming) we can work something out together.
    Natalie @ Our Parallel Connection recently posted…10 essential qualities of a best friend?My Profile

    1. That’s a good attitude Natalie. My friends who’s parents said a flat out no were more likely to binge drink, though they did so less often. A bit like little kids in a candy store!

    1. Totally! I’m only thinking about it because Rebecca’s post had me commenting and pondering it, though my husband and I have discussed it before. Good luck with it when the time comes shortly!

  2. We rarely drink and we don’t have alcohol in the house – apart from the few bottles of port I use for Christmas baking and whatever has been gifted to us that usually sits in the buffet and gets forgotten about. I haven’t even thought about my kids and alcohol, only because alcohol was never an issue for either Jacob and I when we were growing up and I naively assume the same for my girls. But it will be something to keep my eyes on and have good conversations with my girls about drinking.
    Bec Senyard recently posted…40 Ways to Change Your Home InteriorMy Profile

    1. You don’t have to worry for awhile anyway Bec! It was an issue for my husband and I (but again, that could be related to the school we went to!) but we came through unscathed and it certainly opened our eyes and made us aware of what’s to come. I honestly think girls are less inclined than boys to do stupid things where alcohol is concerned so you might get lucky!
      Haidee recently posted…Teenagers & Alcohol: What Approach Will You Take?My Profile

  3. Like you, my family were drinkers and it was never a big fuss. I was allowed a beer or two from the age of about 16 or 17 from memory. My parents knew I drank but would rather know about it, I think. And my friends with much more strict parents were those who binged and got sick and snuck out etc. I think you have to see what your kids are like as they get older. Of course, I’d rather they waited!
    Amy @ Handbagmafia recently posted…The Bum Bag is Back!My Profile

  4. It’s funny isn’t it, how we try to make sense of the world? I guess there’s a difference between doing a few stupid alcohol-related things in your youth, and growing up to have an ongoing problem with alcohol. I wasn’t allowed to drink at home until 18 and yes, I did some stupid things when I got my hands on a bottle but later in life In a very moderate drinker, and I think that’s in part influenced by what I saw as ‘normal’ growing up. Wine/spirits was a sometimes and special occasion drink, and never to excess.
    Rebecca Bowyer recently posted…‘That’s not very maternal of you!’ (Guest post)My Profile

    1. That sounds like how it should be Rebecca! I’d hope as parents we are pretty good at not drinking to excess in front of them 🙂 Though I have had my moments coming home that way when they were asleep and I completely blame my male workmates for that 😉 But I display the same traits as you for the most part, a wine is a one or two glass affair occasionally and that’s about it. Except for Christmas or other special occasions where it may be a 4 glass affair. But mostly one. And now none. Damnit.

    1. I’ll be interested to see what approach you guys decide on and how it works for you Deb! I know the drinking age is 21 in the US but I was 18 while there and in a bar drinking with lots of othe 18/19 year olds so I know it wasn’t always enforced and there were ways around it!

  5. Oh boy I am not looking forward to having to make these decisions in the future!!! We’re not big drinkers at all here – but I do like a glass of wine with dinner occasionally or if friends are over. It’s seems so different with teenagers now to when I was younger!!

    1. I just think it may be more transparent now because of social media! I know we got up to quite a lot of mischief but it was never broadcast like it is these days! Maybe you were a good girl Lucy 😉

  6. A very thought-provoking post and one which everyone needs to read and consider. I was brought up in a home where alcohol was a social-thing. I never got interested in having a drink at all much, even though I went to Uni balls and all that. My parents drank but never to excess and that’s about it. My hub drank as a young man after sport (social expectations) and wondered why he did. So he stopped. Our kids were brought up in a household where alcohol was there for others if we had visitors. Both kids, as they got older, and were going out away from the home knew that if need be, we could come and pick them up rather than get in a car with another person who may have been drinking. Now they have kids of their own and some are already teens and I have seen nor known of no over-use or any use of alcohol with them. I do think each family dynamic is different as is each genetic makeup. I cannot say that we ‘escaped” all the issues of having teens at all…in fact, due to privacy of people involved I cannot tell any more.
    I think the more conversations that are had and accepted that teens are ‘meant to defy’ but that your family values taught from before birth (YES) and onwards will go a long way to having a reasonable and acceptance outcome for the ‘teen years’ and beyond.
    Denyse #teamIBOT
    Denyse Whelan Blogs recently posted…“Last” Kids Starting School. 366/33.My Profile

    1. Absolutely Denyse, I think family values and an open relationship are huge. I drank in excess but not ridiculously (most of the time and not on purpose!) because I was brought up not to behave that way. Sounds like you raised them well!

  7. Very interesting post and something (although my boys are still little) I do think about and contemplate what rules we will set and how we will manage this. Being a responsible adult who can make responsible decision about alcohol is what I hope to raise my boys to be – let’s see how we get there xx
    Josefa @always Josefa recently posted…Shifting WaterMy Profile

  8. My parents enjoyed a drink and I grew up having the occasional sip of Dad’s beer but they were both against my brothers and I drinking socially before we were legally able. We all did it anyway behind their backs which makes me feel ashamed to say. HOWEVER, I believe that having had parents model responsible drinking made a HUGE difference to how I handled myself. I didn’t make a fool of myself. Oh I made myself sick sometimes but I wasn’t reckless and stupid. In contrast I saw kids whose parents were strict and not drinkers get into all sorts of trouble as they just didn’t know how to behave and others were just rebelling in a big way. I would have preferred to have had my parent’s support. My husband did. So I guess that’s probably how we will handle it too. I want my kids to be honest with us.
    Thanks Haidee. Hadn’t given it much thought before this!
    Shauna recently posted…My…..er….’cruisey’ Australia Day 😉My Profile

    1. Shauna, your experience sounds very much the same as me! I made myself sick on occassion but I didn’t do stupid reckless things either and I think that was due to how my parents responded to the situation as I knew I was allowed but didn’t want to do anything to betray that trust you know?

  9. My Dad drank regularly and I remember having a sip of beer as a kid (I was about 5) and enjoying it.
    Having said that, I never drank until I was eighteen, because it was illegal. And I was very conscious of the fact that if it was against the law, then it was wrong.
    I do think about things with my own kids though, and I’m conscious of the fact that my older daughter does notice when I have a wine, so more and more I wait until she’s in bed.
    I think more than anything though, conversation is key. Talking about things, and not being afraid to set high standards. I think sometimes we expect less of our kids and they indulge us.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…Which Koala are You? #IBOTMy Profile

    1. You’re a good girl Jess 🙂 I didn’t really give much thought to the fact it was against the law to be honest! It was a law that everyone was breaking and they never did anything about it unless you were caught buying it underage so meh. Man, that makes me sound so bad! I’m far more conscious of the law these days, I promise!

  10. It’s an interesting topic isn’t it? Our eldest is turning 18 next month and her first drink will be on that night. Alcohol isn’t a big factor in our house. My husband doesn’t drink at all, and I only do on occasions, though I do like a cider on a hot day now and then.
    I do think parents’ attitude towards alcohol has a big impact on a child.
    JodiGibson (@JFGibsonWriter) recently posted…Why I went from writing feature articles to copywritingMy Profile

  11. I had drinks at home (occasionally) and out at parties when I was a teenager. I do often wonder what I will be like when my son grows up, and alcohol enters his life. I actually still haven’t made my decision. Me and the husband will drink in front of him, but never ever have heaps. I think the main thing is to have ‘respect’ for alcohol (if that makes sense?), in front of the kids. I do believe it’s okay to drink in front of the kids at home, but make sure they understand that we don’t abuse it. There has to be clear boundaries when talking about drinking alcohol, with the kids.
    Kelly recently posted…THE ‘STRAYAN PARENTMy Profile

  12. Your friends experience was very similar to mine. My brother is 16 and in a lot of ways he is similar to me but in a lot of ways he is different. Our Dad is a binge drinker and while I have gone down a similar route, my brother has gone down a completely different one. He hates drinking and much prefers to stay sober.
    Tegan recently posted…Easy Mini TacosMy Profile

    1. I have a friend the same Tegan, binge drinking parents and now can’t stand alcohol whereas like you said, another friend was the same as you and had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. How are you going with it now? Quitting is TOUGH! Especially when the weather is amazing and it’s been a long day!

    1. I don’t even want to THINK about drugs. I did my fair share of weed but that is as far as I ever went and had zero interest in trying anything else. The last time was in Amsterdam and let’s just say NEVER AGAIN. I remember I complained that my McDonalds cheeseburger had no sauce in it and they pretty much rolled their eyes and gave me a free lemonade but that’s about all I remember!

  13. I struggle with this, because a huge part of me thinks that what was normal a generation ago doesn’t mean it’s ok now. Like smacking kids. But, on the other hand, I would have thought that exposure to responsible use of alcohol can only set a positive example for kids. Also, is there something culturally wrong with Australian (and NZ) culture that means that parents need to abstain from alcohol to stop their children abusing it? That’s clearly not the case in most of Europe! It’s a complicated issue.

    1. It is a complicated issue, I completely agree! I think the drinking culture is even worse now than when I was a teen isn’t it? Or is it better? I truly have no idea!

  14. My parents drank and as they’re from Europe I was always allowed to taste alcohol. Usually I told them it was disgusting. Frankly it was only maybe 4-5 years ago I changed my mind. I am very take it or leave it. I’ll make mocktails as often as cocktails. I might go months without drinking then drink more for a month (not more as in binge, but more as in with a regularity to it). I really have no pattern. And I actually think that’s the best thing if you drink, to NOT allow it to be habit forming & have no pattern.
    Vanessa recently posted…Why I’m Loving ScrivenerMy Profile

    1. I think you’re right Vanessa about the habit forming being part of the problem. I was drinking a glass of wine every night as part of a habit that I formed over summer and that made quitting harder!

  15. Every time I think about my girls going out drinking in their later years I push the thoughts out of my head. It scares me. I had a strict upbringing and went off the rails when I moved out of home and drank to excess on a number of occasions which landed me in some dangerous situations. When the girls are older, I will do my best to have open conversations with them about alcohol and the dangers and try to establish honest and open communication with them.

    1. So did my friends with strict parents Renee, has that meant you may approach things differently or try to be a bit lighter on the strictness and the way you approach it? I’m finding it really interesting hearing what everyone else was like as a teen and the kind of home they were brought up in directly affecting their decision making.

  16. I can count on one hand the amount of times I drank before college. My father is a recovered alcoholic, so I don’t remember ever having alcohol in the house. In fact, my opinion of alcohol was that it could make people become scary. I just knew stories of what my dad was like as he quit before I was born. So, alcohol was pretty absent from my life until I went to college. I attended what you may call “a party school.” So, even though I had good grades and LOVED SCHOOL, there were parties every weekend. Usually we had the parties at my apartment. I didn’t learn how to drink in moderation. Honestly, I’ve recently decided to quit alcohol as well. It was fun to drink when I was new to college, but it’s not something that I enjoy anymore. I don’t have any kids yet, so I don’t know what approach my husband and I will take with them. We had very different upbringings in regards to alcohol. But, I really enjoyed this post and think that it brings up some great points about teenage drinking. Thanks for sharing your side of things!
    Gina recently posted…The Only Quesadilla You’ll Ever NeedMy Profile

    1. Firstly, well done to your dad for overcoming his alcoholism! I can totally see why not being around what is considered ‘healthy’ drinking habits could mean you don’t know how to drink in moderation and of course there is the novelty affect too. I’m glad it gave you food for thought! How’s the quitting going? I’m still in the withdrawl headache side of things from the sugar in wine!

  17. Hi Haidee, an interesting post. Having a son of eighteen and a daughter of sixteen, alcohol and it’s consumption is something we do talk about often.

    My husband does rely on more than a beer or two at the end of the day and it does affect the way he is, he of course sees nothing wrong with it, but luckily both my children do.

    I, on the other hand wouldn’t stress if I never had another alcoholic drink in my life, I rarely drink and only genuinely enjoy the taste of a local sweet red wine or a berry cider.

    My husband was bought up with two parents that drank heavily and I am sure it affected him and his siblings, who all drink. His brother recently finished a year in rehab and his father was in on more than one occasion before he passed away.

    I on the other hand had an up bringing that sounds similar to your own. I was allowed to drink as a teenager, my Dad wanted me to learn the hard way (sounds worse than it was), but in the safety of home and if I was sick, it was me who had to clear it up. My parents were not drinkers, Dad enjoyed his two beers on a skittle night and Mum drank at Christmas and on holiday.

    As for my own children, my son has tried a sip of beer every now and again, but hates it, he has Aspergers and a heightened sense of taste, which works in his favour, in this case. Last summer I did allow my daughter to have a berry cider when we went out on an evening, she knew she could only have one and usually had a bottle of water to start the evening off. She is also allowed a small glass of wine with a special meal, which she enjoys.

    So far I have had no cause for concern, I am not daft and realise she can drink be hind my back, but I have the sense of smell of a blood hound and on a recent school trip she had a Smirnoff Ice and quite happily told me ( I also know she could be only telling half truths, but her behaviour didn’t set off alarm bells indicating that she must have had more).

    Judging by mine and my husbands different approach to alcohol I do think a parents approach to alcohol can certainly affect how a child sees alcohol, but until mine are older I have no idea how!

    Good luck with the stopping. People judge a non drinker as much as a drinker I can tell you!

    Debbie recently posted…Roasted Red Pepper And Fresh Tomato Soup RecipeMy Profile

  18. I had a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol growing up. It was very contradictory for me. My father was an alcoholic and very abusive. My mother was an alcoholic and neglectful. When I was taken from them, I was put in the care of my great-aunt who absolutely forbade it, save for one sip of wine at Christmas. I wasn’t allowed to do anything when I was growing up in her house but chores and TV. I was abused there too. I did occasionally try a sip of whiskey when I stayed over a friend’s house a few times but other than that, I waited until I turned 21, then I binged like crazy. I was drinking every single night until I passed out. When I got pregnant with my oldest at 24 I stopped cold turkey and refused to allow alcohol in my house for several years. Now, I am in a great place though (thanks to a lot of therapy and healing from my childhood), so I will occasionally have a glass of wine. I love wine but I don’t have a desire to drink it all the time. I am going to a wine tasting this Friday though and I am looking forward to it. I love wine tastings. As far as my own kids, my oldest is a teenager and so far, hasn’t shown any interest in even trying alcohol. I don’t know if his Autism will affect his desire to drink in the future or not but I have opened the discussion with him. He’s only 14 so hopefully, he won’t want to try it anytime soon. My youngest will probably be the one who wants to try it when he’s older but I have a very open communication policy with both of my boys so hopefully, when he’s ready, he will come to me and we can talk about it. I’m not in the mind set of letting teenagers drink though. I know that at some point they will but it’s not something I will promote. This is a great discussion though and something that I will think about as my kids get older.
    Michelle recently posted…Manic Monday #1My Profile

  19. You know, I haven’t thought about it yet. My 11 year old just asked me today when I started drinking coffee, lol, cause that’s my addiction 😉 and asked me when she could have some. We do not drink, sometimes a glass of wine, when people come over, that’s really it. We’ve talked about it and that’s I think the most important thing, talking and explaining. I’m sure when the time comes, she’ll try and will be ready and mature enough to make the right decision. That’s what every mother wants, right! But it’s how we right now go about. Its important to have rules, but from the beginning on. Then, those rules can be bend a little here and there and they should be able to make their own mistakes as well, knowing that they can count on us parents. Uff, I could keep on going and going. Great post Haidee!
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  20. Interesting! I haven’t really considered exactly what my approach will be yet. I’m inclined to think that on most things I would like to go with not being so unrealistically strict that I am unapproachable and provoke rebellion, but not being so permissive that there is a lack of stability and structure. My background actually would fit with the findings of the study you spoke of: neither of my parents ever drank (my mum dislikes alcohol and my dad gets chronic migraines), and we were not encouraged or facilitated in becoming drinkers (though we weren’t kept under lock and key, and were allowed to go to parties, etc). Neither my sister nor I are drinkers. #WAYWOW
    Silly Mummy recently posted…Where’s Daddy Gone: The Ten Funniest Things The Toddler Said Last WeekMy Profile

  21. Haidee, this is such a hard question for me. I have worked in the food industry for 30 years, and I have been a bartender since I was 18 on and off. But the more we learn about addiction and mental illness the more I evolve on the topic. If there is addiction buried in the genetics this can send a teen into a spiral, and if there is hidden mental disease this can activate it. We let our kids taste alcohol so they wouldn’t be ignorant. But we do not allow them to drink it in our home until they are 21. I’m not ignorant enough to think they didn’t drink, and I’m not sure that even impending addiction or mental disease could deter adults from giving teens alcohol. I’m really not sure what the answer is. I wish I did! Great discussion, keep it up!

  22. My parents especially my mum were pretty strict on drinking. I didn’t really drink until I was about 19 years old and by then I didn’t really see the point. I did party a bit and go on a bender not often but often enough to know that I didn’t need it to party. This post is pretty timely as I have been thinking how to approach this with my kids. I think I am more liberal than my parents but then again you never know until we are in that situation. My kids are still too young for this talk but I’m just preparing for it. Haven’t found the right strategy yet but this post definitely helped.

  23. I’m pretty much with you on everything you’ve said here – I think it’s most important that our kids feel that they can be honest with us and not hide things from us – rather than trying to preach to them that alcohol is ‘bad’. As you say, it’s naive to think that teenagers won’t experiment with it and I think it’s all part of growing up. I had a similar upbringing to you and grew up thinking that alcohol is okay in moderation. Admittedly I didn’t always follow the rule (and still don’t!) but at least I didn’t feel the need to hide the parties and the hangovers from my mum and felt I could call on them if I needed to.

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