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Q.  I think my wife is over-reacting with our 14-year old son. We have always tried to present a united front but we really disagree about this. He's a good kid but when he's out with his friends (most nights this summer), they drink some. He only drinks beer and I think he'll outgrow this phase as I did. My wife thinks we should send him to his grandparents for the summer because she's so opposed to his drinking. Can you help? 

A. Good for you for trying to come to consensus on this important issue! Adolescents who begin drinking before age 15 or younger are four times more likely to develop problems with alcohol use and dependence than those who begin drinking at age 21 or older. So your wife has adequate reason to be concerned.

You say he "only" drinks beer. One 12-oz. beer has the same amount of alcohol as a shot (1.5 oz.) of distilled spirits or a 5 oz. glass of wine. Basically "a drink is a drink is a drink". If he's out nearly every night, that's a lot of alcohol. There are some scary immediate consequences including traffic crashes, arrest, fighting, falls and drowning that are clearly associated with alcohol. Are you really ready to take those risks? 

Then let's talk about the law. It is illegal. You're the parent now no matter what you did as a kid. It's really your job to model respect for the law. Come on, Dad, help him and his friends think of other things to do - take them to a ball game, go work at a homeless shelter one night together, rent a stack of movies.

Sending him to his grandparents for part of the summer might be fun for him and his grandparents but shouldn't be a punishment or a way of restricting him. First of all, he can find a way to drink anywhere. Second, it doesn't address the concern for his current and future health or the consequences for breaking the law. Your wife can come up with some ideas for keeping his summer busy too. 

And finally, talk to him. Explain why you are both concerned and cannot let him continue to drink. Then stick to it.

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Last Updated 05.20.2002 | Email Parenting is Prevention | Privacy Policy