Wellness & Education

Can Parents Teach Kids How to Drink?

Can children be taught to drink responsibly? Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, director of the Adolescent Substance Use and Addiction Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School doesn’t believe so.  Dr. Levy says, “It’s a myth that you can teach kids to drink.”  

According to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics, among people who start drinking before age 14, 47% experienced lifetime dependency on alcohol, as compared with 9% among those who waited until age 21 or above.  Age at Drinking Onset and Alcohol Dependence: Age at Onset, Duration, and Severity | Adolescent Medicine | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network  

A UK-based study has shown that 14-year-olds who were allowed to drink at home were more than twice as likely to drink heavily and binge drink within the following year as kids whose parents did not give them permission to drink.  

Parents need to take particular care not to encourage alcohol consumption among children and teens. Alcohol has less of a sedative effect on children and teens than it does on adults, but it has a greater effect on teen memory. Teens are more likely to have blackouts after drinking, leading them to engage in behavior that they will not be able to remember later.  Content: Alcohol Affects Adolescents and Adults Differently – The Alcohol Pharmacology Education Partnership (duke.edu)

For those who are concerned that their children are already abusing alcohol, here are a few warning signs:  

Signs of Alcohol Abuse in Teens 

  • Mood swings 
  • A drop in grades and/or a deterioration of their behavior or attitude at school, including missing classes, arriving late, missing homework, etc.  
  • A change in their group of friends 
  • Secrecy in their phone calls or use of social media 
  • Deterioration in their personal hygiene and a slovenly appearance 
  • Missing alcohol in the house 
  • Empty alcohol containers hidden around the house 
  • Obvious signs of intoxication 
  • Increased spending or missing items of value