I don’t drink alcohol — but I’m planning to let my sons have their first taste when they're in gradeschool. It sounds strange to let my children have a sip of something I don’t partake in myself, but my husband drinks a beer or two at family or neighborhood gatherings. I don’t want feel that I need to hide this from my son, and I think addressing it head on is the best approach.
Like many Circle of Moms members, the two of us agree that including children in family traditions that involve alcohol or wine, and letting them have a taste early on, is a healthy way to teach them about responsible alcohol consumption.
Early Exposure Teaches Moderation
At some point in their lives, all children experiment with alcohol with their friends. I’d hate for my sons to wind up like a Circle of Moms member (screenname: "LaCi Who?), whose parents never allowed her to drink. As a result, she says, she went wild in her teens.
Children who grow up in homes where adults drink moderately and responsibly, like sipping wine with dinner, have extremely low rates of alcohol abuse compared to those that grow up in completely non-drinking families, says LaCi.
Additionally, I agree with Jodie B., who says that when parents drink in moderation in front of their children, they are demonstrating that the proper way to enjoy a drink includes stopping before it impairs mental and physical capabilities.
Drinking in moderation in front of the kids is better than hiding it from them with the intention to protect them. As mom Brandy K. says: “They're going to find out about alcohol eventually whether you hide it from them or not, and they should be educated about it so that they don’t get excessive with it and know that it’s okay to just have one or two."
A Taste Removes the Temptation
In addition to letting your children see you drink responsibly, I believe that letting children taste a tablespoon helps to diminish the allure of alcohol.
"I am a firm believer in the adage ‘forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest.’ I think that if you deny your kids things, they will want them even more," says Lisa S. She attended school in Austria, where the drinking age is younger, and explains that drinking legally at ages 16, 17 and 18 meant that "the ‘coolness factor’ wore off well before I was in college, and even before I had my driver's license."
Christina M. agrees: "With some children, if you take the mystery out of alcohol then they don't turn into lushes after they become of age." She's teaching her 10-year-old that if he ever experiments with alcohol when he gets older, he will only get in trouble for not calling his parents to pick him up. Christina is motivated by memories of seeing many of her friends go crazy with alcohol simply because it was forbidden.
Minnie J.'s story is a case in point. She grew up in a household where drinking any form of alcohol was anathema:
"My mother thinks the stuff is of the devil. So, when I went to college, I got so horribly drunk that I fell over and bashed my forehead in on a table," she explains. "That one time in college was the result of an over-sheltered life where we were never allowed to experience anything responsibly — only taught that such and such a thing was evil and 'don’t you dare do it.'"
Gradeschoolers Are Great Learners
Desiree M. says her dad let her taste a beer when she as six or seven and that put her off beer then and there. Similarly, Amy K. says she remembers having her first watered-down wine at about 10 years old when her parents taught her the guidelines for drinking alcohol. "I'm almost 30 and have been tipsy once or twice, but never drunk," she says, noting that she never thought that early taste was the greenlight to get smashed all the time.
If you agree with the rationale behind giving your child a taste before he's legally allowed drink, then I believe, as these members' stories illustrate, that gradeschool is the best time. At this stage, kids are old enough that they don’t just want to blindly copy an adult, yet young enough that they'll still listen and comprehend when Mom and Dad say alcohol is normally just for grown-ups.
As Ceclia S. sums up, gradeschoolers are at a perfect age for absorbing lessons about alcohol. They’re past the toddler "cookie sneaking stage" yet still young enough that they haven’t grown cynical. In other words, a gradeschooler will understand and accept that a parent's guidance on the importance of drinking in moderation is not just useless advice.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.