There is a school thought amongst some parents that if you introduce alcohol to children in moderate amounts, it increases their sense of responsibility and respect for drink and could help to improve their adult drinking habits.
Here is a look the argument surrounding exposing your children to moderate amounts of alcohol in a social situation and how to talk to your kids about alcohol in general.
Are you really encouraging responsible drinking or just introducing a potential problem?
There is no doubt that parents who consider the idea of introducing their children to a moderate amount of alcohol, do so with the very best intentions.
If the research carried out by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs is correct, they could be making a mistake by taking that open-minded approach to responsible drinking. The study concluded that in some cases, parents who provided alcohol to their teenage children, were in fact encouraging future heavy drinking habits and raising the risk of alcohol-related problems.
It certainly seems that in some circles, the practice of wine-weaning and taking the continental approach to alcohol tolerance, is not a proven strategy to encourage sensible drinking in later life.
Your own drinking habits could be more of an influence
While there appears to be no hard evidence to satisfactorily answer the debate about whether introducing alcohol to your teen under parental supervision, encourages better drinking habits and behavior later, there are some other factors that may be more clear cut.
Some believe that a more damaging influence could be when you exhibit a poor level of behavior towards alcohol in front of your children.
Hosting a drinking party that includes your teenager, so that they have access to drink and witness you drinking large amounts of booze in front of them, could send out all the wrong signals and this type of open approach to alcohol is considered likely to create more problems than it solves.
A progression towards unsupervised drinking
One of the main risks attached to trying to teach your children to drink alcohol responsibly is that by introducing them to it at an young age, could potentially raise the risk of a progression towards unsupervised drinking, as you may lower their natural inhibition towards drink that might otherwise have been there.
The issue that parents have to contend with is whether they feel comfortable with the notion that by allowing their teens to drink, even under strictly supervised conditions, they could possibly be conditioning their child towards a more relaxed attitude towards drinking, which in turn could potentially increase their tendency to drink when their parents are not around to watch them.
Kids learn many things from their parents
There appear to be a number of pros and cons to both sides of the argument regarding introducing alcohol to your children at a certain age, and before they are legally allowed to order a drink for themselves.
This moral dilemma often sparks a lively debate that is not easily settled. But whether you are in favor of the idea or not and regardless of if you think that the European model of drinking has some merits, there is at least one thing that is certainly difficult to argue with, which is the observation that most kids tend to pick up their habits by watching what their parents do.
If your teen is curious what alcohol tastes like and ask you for a sip, maybe you might offer them a small glass of wine with the family meal. That is down to your own parental guidance rules and how well you think you judge the situation and what you want to do in the privacy of your own home.
What is not likely to set a good example regarding alcohol use, is when your child sees you drinking more than moderately. Some parents are extremely vigilant in ensuring that their children do not see them doing anything other than drinking in moderation.
The debate will no doubt rage on about whether you can realistically promote responsible drinking by introducing your teenage children to alcohol, but one thing seems to be relatively certain, that you can at least try to lead by example if you want them to have a healthy respect for drink.
Jacob Wallace has worked as a social care support worker for a number of years, working with both kids and adults. He writes about topics relevant to parents in today's changing society mostly for parenting and family sites.